Essential Walk #1: Essence

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 22, Issue No. 2a
October 1, 2023

By Dan Coughlin


The only source of knowledge is experience

(Author’s Note: As I share my thoughts with you on the essence of a person’s life, please keep in mind these are just my thoughts. It doesn’t mean they are right. I hope you will consider them, but more importantly, I hope you will reflect on each word and decide how you define these very important words in your life.)

What does “essence” mean?

I like the word essence. It captures the idea I’m trying to get across.

MWD (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) defines essence as the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a person.

I define your essence as consisting of your thoughts, emotions, and will.

In MWD, will is defined in many ways: a disposition, inclination, choice, volition, mental powers manifested as intending and choosing, a disposition to act according to principles or ends, and the power of control over one’s own actions or emotions.

The simplest definition of will that I’ve ever read was in the book, Power of Will, that was written in 1907 by Frank Haddock. He wrote, “Will is the power of self-direction.” In my words, your will is the direction you send your thoughts and emotions toward.

Your essence consists of the non-physical and non-material aspects of who you are as a person. You can’t hold your essence in your hands or touch it, but it guides your life.

I think your essence manifests itself in your words and actions. It is what is behind those words and actions.

One way to understand your essence is to answer these three questions:

  1. What am I thinking?
  2. What am I feeling?
  3. What direction am I willing my thoughts and emotions to head in?

What does an “Essential Walk” mean?

Just as you can make choices to develop your body, I believe you can make choices to develop your essence as well. Just as you can make your body healthier or less healthy, I think you can make your essence healthier or less healthy, which can then lead to healthier or less healthy words and actions.

An Essential Walk is when you take the time to really reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and will, and decide on any adjustments you want to make to your essence. Another way of saying this is that an Essential Walk is how you develop your essence. Do you just go on autopilot and let your subconscious desires and the people around you guide your decisions, or do you consciously intervene and determine your desired thoughts, emotions, and will?

Essential Walks are about your capacity to make choices. The quest of Essential Walks, the quest of this journey, is to have a healthy essence, which can then lead to healthier decisions, words, and actions. It is the starting point of becoming the person you want to be in the future.

How does all of this connect to your personal life and your work?

Every person has thoughts, emotions, and will. Therefore, every person has an essence.

Every person makes decisions that affect the health of their essence.

Their essence affects what they say and do.

What they say and do affects their personal relationships and activities as well as their work relationships and activities.

A person can reflect on their thoughts, emotions, and will, and decide whether they want to continue on with them, subtract some of them, add to some of them, or change some of them. In going on Essential Walks, the person affects how they channel their thoughts, emotions, and will. In shifting how they channel those, they can strengthen their essence, which is the intangible part of themselves that guides what they say and do.

Your progress toward becoming the person you want to be begins with your essence, which consists of your non-physical and non-material thoughts, emotions, and will. Again, the desired endgame of Essential Walks is to develop a healthier essence, which will then impact all of the other aspects of your life.

An important question then becomes, “Am I going to let my subconscious desires and the influences of other people run my life as they see fit, or am I going to channel my energies and desires as I see fit?”

Of course, that leads into the question of, “How will I decide what I see as healthy thoughts, emotions, and will?”

That will be the basis for our next Essential Walk, but for now I think you have enough to chew on.

Essential Walk Questions to Consider

  1. What does the word “essence” mean to you?
  2. What do you see as the essence of who you are as a person in 50 words or less?
  3. What are examples in your life where you have consciously channeled your thoughts, emotions, and will in a new direction?

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.

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