I once had a chat with a man who’d finished a BA at a major research university, later on a Master’s degree at an Ivy League school. Between both, he had worked successfully in finance and had then successfully pivoted to the tech space. After “some soul searching,” he said, he decided to become a coach. He did so, he reported that he really found what he loves, and he has since been successful at it.
Gotta level with you, man: hey, good for you–but that’s not soul searching. That’s bullshit. (*)
Soul searching means losing a child to cancer and nearly losing your mind.
Soul searching means dropping into hellish despair and feeling the darkness seethe and seep into you.
Soul searching means no longer caring at all about what you used to hold so tenderly and then realizing that there is nothing–nothing!, you scream–that you care about now.
Soul searching means that everything is upside down and nothing you say makes sense.
Soul searching means confronting, as Zen says, “the Great Matter of Life and Death” without polish or pretension.
Soul searching means dying to yourself.
I soul search, if I do, because I am shattered. Shattered, I yearn to be whole. Shattered, I yearn to know what it all means. Shattered, I do nothing but rend and when rending is through, blessedly do I contemplate.
Soul searching is real. It’s not unctuous business speak.
(*) I define bullshit, following Harry Frankfurt’s lead, as saying whatever is necessary to get others to believe (or: to trick others into believing) that I know what it is that I’m talking about when I don’t actually know what it is that I’m talking about in order to leave others (and myself included) with a favorable impression of me. As kids, we might have called this talking out of your ass.