Well, well, well... we are officially closer to the end of the year than to the start and I can guarantee that every single person reading this certainly couldn’t have planned ahead for the year we’ve had so far! With natural disasters, worldwide pandemic, social injustices, explosions, famines (the list goes on!), it’s hard sometimes to place where exactly you find yourself in amongst it all. And that’s only considering external factors! There’s been massive strain and pressure put on everyone’s mental state and health as we process the varying degrees trauma attached to 2020.
I found myself looking back at the start of the year and all the plans I had in place that have so swiftly (and frequently) been bulldozed into oblivion. I started thinking about my plans and how to achieve them, but when the world (internal and external) is in so much chaos, how do you find the balance or motivation for living with purpose? After all, just because we are in some form of isolation or lockdown, doesn’t mean that time actually stops. My world doesn’t stop spinning because I can’t go out of my home. So then, where do I find purpose for my life in this chaos?
So far this is what I have found and managed to summarise for how to live a purposeful life amidst chaos:
This seems ironic. Living your life with purpose would surely have to be about you, right? Well, I’ve found quite the opposite! When intentionality is placed on improving the lives of those around you by, well, just being with you, I have found that it gives life! It is energising to see the spark of gratitude in someone’s eyes as you drop off a home-cooked meal, or leave flowers outside for passerby’s for no other reason than to make them smile. I'm not saying that you need to throw all self-care out the window and only be a people pleaser, not at all. But I am trying to make the point that a purposeful life is a life lived with others; it is a life lived with an open heart and a generous spirit. The history books are rich with stories of incredible people that will be remembered forever because they chose to not make it about themselves but others: Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Princess Diana and the list goes on!
Let’s be honest. We all think we are right. We may not be experts in every field, but surely our opinion of a situation or subject matter is always the correct one? Wrong. I have found that whether you’re technically right or wrong about a subject is completely irrelevant. It is whether it was approached with a willingness to listen, with willingness to empathise that actually matters. The Black Lives Matter movement and COVID conspiracies are certainly subjects that have sparked every opinion under the sun and I have seen people fiercely and viciously defend theirs. But what is the point of fighting for your opinion if you are not improving anyone’s life by doing it? If all you are doing is dividing and triggering hate by trying to be “right”, what is the point? Do you forever want to be remembered as the person that lost every ounce of empathy to those with very real scars — whether you agree with them or not? To those that are heartbroken and suffered trauma? There are moments in time where we need to actually... Pause. Take a breath. Close your eyes. Clear your head. And feel. Feel the pain of others. Experience their hurts. Try at least to understand their perspective. Empathy does not have to discredit your opinion, but it allows for human connection. Without it, what are we? I believe living a purposeful life is rooted deep in empathy.
There’s a Brooke Fraser song with the lyrics “faith without deeds is dead” and this has triggered me many times. We can find ourselves so easily encourage support for others with words, post a black square on our grid, repost amazing quotes from those driving change, but if we don’t follow these up with actions, it’s but a breath of air lost in a gale force wind. I have been challenging myself to stop saying things, posting things or promising support for others unless I follow it up with something substantial - action. It is within the action that purpose is generated and stewarded! It’s easy for us to text a friend “if you need anything, let me know!” and leave it at that when you know they may be struggling. The Black Lives Matter movement has rocked my whole internal world in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I was born in South Africa, lived my teenage years in New Zealand and now find myself in Australia the last decade. Needless to say, I have seen racism play out in so many different ways! I have purposely not spent time posting about it, because I don’t just want to put out empty words. I don’t want to use another hashtag for show. I don’t want to fall into tokenism. Instead, I have looked internally and examined my heart. Instead of just showing support with my words, have I reflected on my thoughts and actions? Have I listened and understood, or am I just playing into 'fad' that will make me look acceptable to people? Perhaps there are still things I need to learn? *shock horror!* So instead, I have quietly started to educate myself by reading books, examining my white privilege and watching documentaries. I have started seeking out BIPOC businesses that I could support. This is a whole other topic that I’ll save for another time as I feel it continue to stir in my soul and as I do due diligence in taking action rather than just saying nice acceptable words. We will be remembered for living a purposeful life when our actions follow suit. It's simple. Let your actions speak on your behalf.
The world is chaotic and it is pretty surreal at times (what else can happen in 2020?!). Let us not put pause on living a purposeful life just because our environment has changed — otherwise that would be living a purposeful season, not a life. May you be encouraged and inspired to keep hoping, to keep looking out for others and to keep living with purpose.