What is living and what is dying in your life: 4 questions

Do you know what is living and what is dying in different parts of your life? How can you know the difference? Years after my college Bio 121 class, I can still recall the definition of life:

Life – capacity for growth, reaction to stimuli, self-sustaining processes, energy transformation and reproduction. (<–I grabbed this definition from here so it wasn’t just my 18 year-old brain remembering it.)

While this definition can be applied to things like puppies and fungi, it can also be used as a kind of BuzzFeed quiz for things like your work, your relationships and various domains in your life.

And sure, you can be killing it in one part of your life (um, ‘killing it’ meaning ‘really life-ing’ here) and another part of your life may be in serious decay.

Let’s use these 5 general life domains to consider all the various aspects of your life:

  1. Spirituality
  2. Family and Intimate Relationships
  3. Work and Creativity
  4. Health and Well-being
  5. Community and Connection


Spirituality is not necessarily about religion, though it can be. It is a belief in power beyond just yourself and a life that searches for meaning, purpose and connection.

Family and Intimate Relationships include roles and responsibilities that are essential or meaningful.

Work and Creativity includes activity that helps foster a sense of belonging in society (including school), livelihood (including all things related to finances), or production of creativity.

Health and Well-being encompasses physical and mental health, as well as a personal sense of agency and safety.

Community and Connection is where we are united and feel a sense of belonging with others, including helping others and fulfillment of group ventures.

4 questions to ask yourself to know what is living and what is dying in your life

For each domain, ask yourself:

  1. What’s working here?
  2. What’s not working?
  3. Where am I confused?
  4. Where is something missing?

How to know if something is working (living) or not working (dying)

Take a look at the definition of life above and use it as a measure of the 5 domains of your life. Is there growth? Is there change? Are you creating something in or from that space?

If there is a domain area that is not experiencing some marks of these, it may be dying and in need of resuscitation or reinvigoration.

Sometimes you aren’t living and are also not dying-but there’s a catch

There is a biological term for this: homeostasis. This is a short season of self-sustaining activities–where you are maintaining internal stability in your life (or a particular domain area in your life) while you adjust to changing external conditions. The caveat here is that it is temporary and in preparation for change. Think about how a toddler gets adorably chubby just before they shoot up 2 inches. Or how family life might be reduced down to the bare minimum in seasons of transition.

The catch is that it is short-lived. It’s best if it’s intentional and you are paying attention to when it can end. Otherwise, it can become a habit verses a specific tool for a specific season.

Where in your life are you dying?

And to be clear, not everything that isn’t working should be resuscitated. Sometimes things aren’t working because they aren’t going to work. And that’s okay. The key is to examine why it isn’t working. Maybe you don’t want it to work and you’ve been trying to make it work because you think you ‘should.’

Should-ing is not a life-giving reason for any domain.

Note that in the definition of life there is no ‘it should grow’, or ‘it should produce something’. There is also no doing things or not doing things because of fear: of judgement, of failure/success, of what will people think, etc. Is there ‘responds to stimuli’? Yes. And that’s different then reacting based on fear.

As you put your life through the paces of the 4 questions above, here are some action steps:

  1. What’s working here?
    Celebrate and do more of this!
  2. What’s not working?
    Fix or prune or stop doing this.
  3. Where am I confused?
    Figure out what you need to get clear about.
  4. Where is something missing?
    What can you add in to create more life?


If things aren’t growing, they are dying. There is a flow to energy in biology–the life science. Your life operates under the same laws of nature–which is great, because you can absolutely know how to look for life signs in your own life domains.

Where do you want to create more living and not dying in your life? Maybe the dying thing won’t ever thrive in your life and it’s okay to let it go. Maybe an area of your life is going to require more resources to be living and not dying and you will get to decide if you want to do that.

Photo by benti kaur on Unsplash – thanks!

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