Do you know why we always tell ourselves, "Life's too short"? Because we've taken on a virtually impossible task - living in accordance with untruths. We establish makeshift "comfort zones" for ourselves, in the form of truths, morals, identities, cultures, etc., only to spend more time shoring them up than is spent living in accordance with them. In that respect, I say, "Life's too long." We'd be better off if in the moment we feel fulfilled, life ended. Would you rather live a long, meaningless, blissful life or a short, meaningful, satisfied life? I don't have statistics, but I'm willing to bet most people would choose the latter. The problem is a significant part of our "selves," the part over which we have little control, is hardwired to choose the former. We then spend the rest of our lives subconscously trying to manipulate the world around us in order to justify our "decision."
When it comes to that part of our "selves" over which we do have a measure of control, our actions revolve around managing pain. We focus so much on pain we even judge the quality of pleasure we experience by the pain we experience, as if they had a yin/yang relationship. Subsequently, "finding" or "knowing" ourselves becomes very dependent on that which causes us pain and/or pleasure. We plan and execute our life choices based around our levels of either, but MORE OFTEN THAN NOT only truly act when confronted with pain. As described above, we justify this way of life by declaring "adapt to survive" a truth. Unfortunately, we've become so accustomed to progressing in our "quest" ONLY when there's pain that we go looking for pain, sure it will make us stronger, only to find quite the opposite. Not to get too off track, but the "no pain, no gain" concept is a marginalized sensationalism. There's only a small amount of truth in it and only in a certain realm of life - the physical. The point I'm making with this paragraph is: we never really "find" or "know" ourselves because we're to busy worrying about pain and pleasure. There is, of course, an alternative - self-actualizing.
You've proabably heard the term "self-actualization" before, but it's one of those truths in life that have become muddled due to our carelessness as described above. What looks like self-actualization to many is actually self-aggrandizement. What's the difference? The major difference is self-actualization involves growing up; whereas, self-aggrandizement does not. We generally consider growing up to be learning to overcome our fears and hubris in order to maximize our ability to meet our own needs. (Self-aggrandizement is nearly the exact opposite.) But growing-up for the purpose of self-actualizing goes further than that simple definition. Right from the start, it has to do with refusing to sense and perceive existence myopically, with being indifferent to pain and pleasure, and with thriving at all times. For those who achieve growing up, self-actualization - being as optimized as possible in every aspect of life - is not far off. Such individuals reach a point of transcendence over their needs and then, to prevent stagnation, choose to assist others in meeting their own. Everyday is about balancing energy outputs and inputs, which involves being decisive about priorities. Self-actualized individuals know themselves and their place in the world. Like Picasso said (though I've switched the two words in brackets), "The [purpose] of life is to find our gift; the [meaning] of life is to give it away." Believe me when I say this sounds easier than it is. It's probably THE most difficult paradox to reconcile. Read on.