The Inner Journey Series, Step #2: Defining the Basic Terms

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 9a
February 1, 2022

By Dan Coughlin

In this series of articles on The Inner Journey I will not tell you what to think, but I will challenge you to think.

The idea is for each of you to develop whatever approach for strengthening your inner self is most effective for you. The first step in finding your way is to define what words mean to you.

Below are 63 basic terms. Please take the time, a few hours at least, to first write down in your own words what each word(s) means to you. If you need to read the dictionary definition to get started, you can do that, but then please rewrite the meaning in your own words. You won’t be sending your answers to me. Just simply type in or write in your answers.

Please don’t be concerned with trying to write down the correct or best definition. Please just write down what the word(s) means to you. If nothing comes to you for a given word(s) after several tries, then you can leave it blank.

When you read your definitions for these words, you may see patterns emerging. Those patterns can become the basis of your philosophy on this inner quest.

After you put in your definition of each word, then, and only then, please read my definition of the word. My definition is no better than your definition, but it will help you to understand where my mind is at.

Here are the Basic Terms on this Inner Journey:

  1. Quest
  2. Excellence
  3. Philosophy
  4. Pragmatism
  5. Creativity
  6. Wisdom
  7. Selfish
  8. Vice
  9. Fear of Failure
  10. Surrender
  11. Morals
  12. Virtue
  13. Ethical
  14. Righteous
  15. Joy
  16. Spiritual
  17. Greater Wisdom
  18. Prayer
  19. A Thinking Spiritual Person
  20. Moral Philosophy
  21. Higher Purpose
  22. Vocation
  23. Calling
  24. Inspired
  25. Enthusiasm
  26. Faith
  27. Hope
  28. Free Will
  29. Conscience
  30. Character
  31. Soul
  32. Inner Self
  33. Inner Greatness
  34. Reflection
  35. Discernment
  36. Personal Integrity
  37. Dignity
  38. Inner Peace
  39. Fulfillment
  40. Relationship
  41. Prejudice
  42. Forgiveness
  43. Trust
  44. Love
  45. Honor
  46. Respect
  47. Reverence
  48. Understanding
  49. Grace
  50. Generosity
  51. Compassion
  52. Mercy
  53. Justice
  54. Humane
  55. Contribution
  56. Courage
  57. Discipline
  58. Family
  59. Community
  60. Organization
  61. Society
  62. Civilization
  63. Leadership


Please don’t read any further until you have written down your own definition of each of the words above. When you have completed that very important step, then please read my definitions of these words.

Dan’s Definitions of the Basic Terms in The Inner Journey

Below are my current definitions of the basic terms in The Inner Quest.

These are not the correct definitions or the best definitions or even my final definitions because there are no correct, best, or final definitions. They are simply my current definitions.

I encourage you to read them over and then continue to reflect on these words. As more effective definitions come to you, write down yours and keep rewriting them. The key is not to have the “right” definitions, but rather to have the definitions that are the most useful and most effective for you.

  1. Quest – Going on a journey in search of something valuable.
  2. Excellence – Being the best person you can be while simultaneously learning how to be better.
  3. Philosophy – A set of beliefs about a particular subject or topic.
  4. Pragmatism – Finding the approach that works best for you.
  5. Creativity – The ability to assemble something that doesn’t already exist.
  6. Wisdom – The perspective you have developed on multiple topics over your lifetime.
  7. Selfish – A thought or behavior that focuses only on pleasing yourself and damages relationships.
  8. Vice – What you think is the wrong or bad thing to do.
  9. Fear of Failure – A negative concern about the outcome of an event.
  10. Surrender – Let go of a thought that is keeping you trapped in a negative mood or a selfish behavior.
  11. Morals – What you believe to be right and wrong.
  12. Virtue – Conforming your thoughts, words, and actions to your standard of what you believe is right and good.
  13. Ethical – To do what you think is the right thing to do.
  14. Righteous – To stand up for what you believe is right.
  15. Joy – A sustained happiness that comes from a deep sense of gratitude and continues regardless of external results, achievements, or earnings.
  16. Spiritual – The aspect of a person that focuses on what is wrong behavior, right behavior, and meaningful behavior, and that can interact with a Greater Wisdom to gain insights on those three things.
  17. Greater Wisdom – An entity beyond human beings that you can reach out to for insights and advice about what is the right thing or wrong thing to do in a situation, and what your purpose is in a given situation.
  18. Prayer – Asking a Greater Wisdom for advice and insights on what is the right thing to do or the right decision to make in a given situation.
  19. A Thinking Spiritual Person – a person who invests time in prayer, considers what he or she has heard, and then decides what he or she thinks is the right thing to do.
  20. Moral Philosophy – A person’s set of beliefs about what is wrong, what is right, and what is meaningful.
  21. Higher Purpose – The reason you are here in a given moment.
  22. Vocation – The work you feel you are called to do.
  23. Calling – A message you feel you received from someone or a Greater Wisdom outside of yourself.
  24. Inspired – Feeling excited about an idea that comes into your inner self.
  25. Enthusiasm – The energy you bring to a situation when you are inspired.
  26. Faith – A belief that something exists with no hard evidence to prove it. For example, spiritual faith is believing a Greater Wisdom exists and that you can turn toward this Greater Wisdom for insights and advice.
  27. Hope – A belief that something in the future will be what you are desiring.
  28. Free Will – The ability to choose what you think about, say, and do in a given situation.
  29. Conscience – The part of you that decides what is right and wrong behavior.
  30. Character – The essence of who you are as a person. The real person within you.
  31. Soul – The keeper of your conscience and character. The eternal and invisible part of yourself that you can impact in a positive or negative way through your decisions and actions.
  32. Inner Self – Your soul. That part of yourself that is purely spiritual, eternal, and separate from your mental, physical, emotional, sexual, and social aspects.
  33. Inner Greatness – Choosing to avoid selfish gratuitous living and engage in virtuous living.
  34. Reflection – Thinking about what has already happened or what could happen in the future.
  35. Discernment – To sift through a variety of options to determine what is the best course of action to take.
  36. Personal Integrity – Doing what you believe is the right thing to do even if no one else is watching.
  37. Dignity – The emotion you experience when you did what you felt was the right thing to do.
  38. Inner Peace – The calmness you feel when you do what you think is the most meaningful thing you can do in a given situation.
  39. Fulfillment – The feeling you experience when you do what you think is very meaningful.
  40. Relationship – A meaningful connection with another person or a group of people.
  41. Prejudice – Developing a negative perception of a person based solely on an -ism, which is a set of characteristics you have developed for the category you have placed the person in based on race, gender, age, etc.
  42. Forgiveness – Acknowledging that you know the wrong thing the person did, choosing to continue to love the person, and asking for the two of you to recommit to each other in a respectful, trusting relationship.
  43. Trust – A belief that someone is reliable and can be counted on to do what he or she said would be done, and confidence that the other person has the best intentions for you in mind.
  44. Love – Seeing the good in another person and accepting the person as he or she is at this moment.
  45. Honor – Acting in a way that you think recognizes the good in another person in a positive way.
  46. Respect – Seeing the good in another person and caring about that person.
  47. Reverence – Respect felt from and toward another person.
  48. Understanding – Feeling sure about what another person is thinking and feeling at a given moment or about a given situation.
  49. Grace – The positive influence from the presence of another person.
  50. Generosity – To give substantially with no expectation of anything in return.
  51. Compassion – To care about another person with passion and generosity.
  52. Mercy – Not giving up on your relationship with another person or not punishing the person when his or her behaviors give you the opportunity to walk away from or punish the person.
  53. Justice – Doing what you think is the fair thing to do.
  54. Humane – To treat every person and every living creature with compassion and care.
  55. Contribution – The value you add to other people in a given situation.
  56. Courage – Doing what you think is the right thing to do even though it is very difficult to do so.
  57. Discipline – The ability to repeatedly behave the way you want to behave.
  58. Family – The people you are related to.
  59. Community – The people you live nearby or are associated with in some way.
  60. Organization – The people with whom you work.
  61. Society – The people whom you are a part of in a larger way.
  62. Civilization – All humans and other living creatures around the world.
  63. Leadership – Influencing how other people think so they make decisions that improve the world in meaningful ways.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

Back to Newsletter Page