Looking for deeper meaning, trying to find patterns in everything, eager to answer life’s riddles—it is this curiosity and hunger for knowledge that has gotten us to where we are now as a species. We have built an advanced civilization by coming up with solutions to problems, and even though we may be somewhat complacent at this stage of our history, there are still a lot of little questions that every person needs to answer throughout his or her life in order to find that unique brand of happiness that will be slightly different for each of us.
As I am a big fan of the Socratic method, I will play a benevolent Riddler and give you a list of brain-teasers that, when answered and understood, will help you come closer to finding answers to much deeper issues. Oh, and trust me, learning how to apply any of this knowledge in real life, day to day, will be the true challenge you’ll have to face. There will be enough space between each riddle and its answer to allow you to think it over and do some guessing before you scroll down, so take your time.
Journey without it and you will never prevail, but if you have too much of it you will surely fail.
While there are plenty of those who lack the confidence to stand up for themselves and seize opportunities, there are also plenty of people out there who overestimate their abilities and bite off more than they can chew. To ensure a reasonable level of happiness in life and achieve as much as you can, you have to live between these extremes and learn to strike the right balance between the different values that you govern yourself by.
Poor people have it. Rich people need it. It can make you or break you.
Steel is hardened by being exposed to the roaring fires of a furnace and then cooled down, and so too is the human spirit hardened by adversity. The rich and privileged lack it and often become spoiled, with a warped view of reality and a childish ignorance of the ways of the world. However, if a person faces numerous hardships without the ability to cool down and recover, his or her spirit can be broken or they can become bitter and jaded. You need to live through some tough times to get a respect for life and hone those survival skills, but remember that there are also those whose hardships have taken them to a dangerous place—beware of such people.
Everyone wants more of it to feel special, yet the more you have of it the less special you feel.
Ah, to be young and foolish is a wonderful thing. You think you know everything, that you are indestructible and have life all figured out, then as you get older and wiser, and delve much deeper into certain subjects, you suddenly realize just how much more there is to know. It can take people an entire lifetime to truly master a skill or acquire detailed knowledge on a topic, and there are just too many skills and topics for any one person to cover in several lifetimes. Understanding this makes you humble, and it also makes you question people who think they have all the answers.
If you have me, you want to share me. If you share me, you haven’t got me. What am I?
Some people fail to grasp the true importance of secrets. From a moral standpoint, they help you avoid lying, but at the same time allow you to protect your privacy and the privacy of those close to you. There is an urge to gossip and spread interesting information that we as humans are born with, but it has to be controlled. Little facts that only a few people know help strengthen the bonds of friendship and love between them—protecting someone’s secret in this day and age is nearly as brave and noble as protecting them from a wild animal.
You can only have it once you have given it.
One of the most misunderstood concepts out there, respect is asked for yet seldom given. Some even try to take it by force or buy it, but if you are unable to show others respect and treat them as equals you will never be able to truly earn their respect. People respect bravery, intelligence, skill, talent, compassion and physical and mental strength, and these things cannot be faked.
Imagine you are in a dark room. How do you get out?
Answer: Stop imagining it
There is something to be said about the destructiveness of self-fulfilling prophecies that people regularly impose upon themselves. When every hint of trouble is immediately viewed as a disaster and any attempt at remedying a situation is brushed aside with “What’s the point? It will never work,” then what chance do we stand when things really go bad? It is important not to give up before the battle has even begun, and to avoid taking yourself to that dark and lonely place all the time. A little positivity and determination will go a long way.
What is always coming but never arrives?
Procrastination is born out of laziness and the fear of making changes, and it is the biggest dream killer out there. If you keep rescheduling important things for tomorrow, Monday or next month, you’ll stay in the same place as the world keeps moving on without you. Some 20-30 minutes here, an hour or two there, it’s not much time to invest in bettering yourself and if you keep doing it every day you will reap huge benefits. Don’t wait for tomorrow, do what needs to be done right now.
At night they come without being fetched. By day they are lost without being stolen.
Answer: Doubts and fears
That old piece of advice given by our elders: “sleep on it”, is as simple as it is absolutely brilliant. At night before sleep we are at our most vulnerable, even if we have someone to hold tight. Those nagging doubts come creeping in, our insecurities and fears start eating away at our mind, and that self-critical voice gets a bit louder as the room goes quiet. However, after a good night’s sleep, as we wake up and let some sunshine into the room, get some fresh coffee and tasty food in our system, those troubled thoughts seem miles away. This is a much better time for talking things over, making big decisions and important phone calls.
A prison you feel safe in, yet never quite happy. Whenever you try to leave, it only grows bigger.
Answer: Your comfort zone
The feeling of safety we get when we hide in our little comfort zone is a false one, and the lack of initiative will eventually lead to us feeling miserable. In order to improve we have to be willing to try new things, throw ourselves into uncomfortable situations and learn to cope with them over time. As we become comfortable with different situations and become proficient in a variety of additional skills, that comfort zone will keep expanding, and we will constantly need to keep running beyond its edges.
If you break me I do not stop working; if you touch me I may be snared; if you lose me nothing will matter.
Answer: Your heart
Letting someone get close, reach in and touch our heart is an exhilarating and frightening experience at the same time. There are plenty of people out there, more than enough for everyone to find a great match. In fact, you may find a good match several times over, and just as your heart breaks it will also mend and be ready to be touched again. However, if you lose that empathy that makes you a decent human being, life will become bleak and meaningless, so keep your heart somewhere safe and nurture it.
It starts off light and easy to bear, yet the more you carry it with you, the heavier a burden it becomes.
Answer: A guilty conscience
We sometimes make rash decisions, especially when we are young and full of raging hormones, and even when we know we did wrong we manage to rationalize things and convince ourselves that we did nothing wrong or that we have no choice. The thing is, you can only keep justifying your actions for so long before your conscience starts eating away at you. This is why many people living a dangerous lifestyle, be they thugs or soldiers and cops, burn out and turn to alcohol or drugs. Abide by a code of ethics you have adopted at all times, and you will stay in good mental health.
I do not listen to reason, but I hear every siren’s song and will try to steer us towards the rocks if you let me take the wheel. Who am I?
When you let your ego take over it’s very easy to take offense at the slightest insult, start shouting matches with people, try to show off and injure yourself at the gym, bite off more than you can chew and ruin relationships. It is only concerned with preserving your perceived social status and will quickly turn you into a drooling Neanderthal, and this goes for both men and women. When you walk out of the house it’s best to leave your ego at home – you don’t have to prove anything to anybody as long as you have a good sense of self-worth and are surrounded by people who understand and respect you.
One by one we fall from heaven down into the depths of past, and our world is ever upturned so that yet some time we’ll last.
Answer: Dreams and aspirations
The way we see ourselves will change over time, and some of the dreams we had and the goals we set will be left behind. However, as our worldview and personality changes, new dreams and aspirations emerge, which is a perfectly normal and healthy part of maturing. We are not giving up who we are, we are just evolving into an improved version of that same person, and knowing this allows us to let go of the past.
A mile from end to end, yet as close to as a friend. A precious commodity, freely given. Found on the rich, poor, short and tall, but shared among children most of all. What is it?
Answer: A smile
This simple little thing really becomes a precious commodity once you get older. A lot of people suffer from anxiety and depression, and most of us spend a good part of the week under constant stress. We forget to smile sincerely, from the bottom of our heart like the carefree children we once were. This is why time spent with close family and friends becomes so precious. We need to remember how to open our eyes to the beauty and hilarity of the world around us, and smile more.
We hurt without moving. We poison without touching. We bear the truth and the lies. We are not to be judged by our size. What are we?
Our words can have an incredible effect on others. They can cause pain and sorrow, bring joy and laughter, make people uncomfortable, educate or offend. A lot of people don’t really think about the words they use, but we should all choose our words more carefully. Just a few inappropriate words uttered in the wrong moment can change our lives forever, and it is up to us to learn to communicate more tactfully so that we can dictate the outcome of such situations, rather than let our emotions get the better of us.
Spend a few minutes pondering these riddles and try to think about a moment in your life that could serve as an example for any of the points covered here. Feel free to dissect each of the riddles and come back to them again after you’ve had them running around in your head for a day or two.