Back in school, we read “the classics” and then had to discover the theme of the story and write a paper on it. As a teenager, this was more of a task than a discovery mission. In college, uncovering the theme and then seeing how various elements of the story really connected the dots was energizing. Something within our minds clicked with excitement and, in many ways, stirred our spirits. There was a connection and a meaning.
What Is Life Theme?
Theme is defined as the “main idea or underlying meaning.” Simple yet themes get tangled, off track, and even undefined. Themes can simply just work, too. They develop, connect, and inspire.
I have touted the importance of having a leadership philosophy and I do believe it is vital. Having a philosophy sets a direction in how to lead. The same applies to life itself. However, a philosophy without a theme may be as incomplete as a theme without a philosophy.
A life without a theme seems like an unfulfilled life. What it may be is a disconnected, meandering one. At the ceremony concluding your life, people pick stories trying to connect your life to meaning. What makes it challenging is that while we are living we get easily distracted.
- We focus on the moment.
- We focus on material things.
- We jump around to each greener pasture.
- We chase things that get displayed and eventually sent to eBay.
When Do You Need a Life Theme?
Wouldn’t it be better to determine a theme early on and then work on it each day? It would be more enlivening.
I am guilty. I wish someone would have slapped me into life’s reality and told me to develop a theme to my life and then live it with gusto. Do I have meaning to my life? In many ways, I do. In other ways, at 50+, I am trying to define my main idea and underlying meaning. I am working to gather all of my life dots and connect them to really make sense.
Just like mediocre stories, there may be a residual theme present but we forget it as soon as we dispose of the book. Don’t live a mediocre life!
Developing a Life Theme
Developing our life themes is important to do. Defining them during our 20-something years fosters momentum of meaning. A few points about developing life themes.
- We likely need several themes, for instance – life, leadership, family, community. Not too many, maybe just enough to make our main life theme really take hold and develop in a purpose-filled way.
- Life themes don’t happen overnight, and they shouldn’t. Themes develop over time. Even though stories end, momentum unfolds with each page. In life, we don’t know how many pages we have but it is worthwhile to make each page the best we can make it.
- Understanding our life theme keeps us engaged and questioning storylines to embrace or ignore. Knowing our life theme isn’t meant as a discipline forcing us to march in a straight line. A theme creates our life thread to craft and weave a colorful story. Our life thread engages joyfully, creating positive impact and crescendo moments for others as they join in.
What a life theme isn’t is a step-by-step career or family plan. Although both support and provide space for us to have big, lasting imprints, a theme is our main life idea lived out as often and as early as possible. A life theme isn’t beginning with an end in mind. A life theme is a beginning to live each day full of meaning without worrying about how your end will be interpreted. Your strong theme will be easily discovered by your life lived.
Writers struggle with theme development so maybe it isn’t surprising we do too. After all, life gets messy and we need to improvise. In the messiness and improvisation, a strong theme delivers the lifeline back to our intended purpose. Know your main idea. Know the underlying meaning you want to live. Do this as early as you can and then live it as often as you can.
Have you defined your life theme? How did you discover it and keep it from getting too distracted?