“I have immortal longings in me” (William Shakespeare)
Trying to find meaning in our crazy and confused world seems to be a never-ending quest – the current chaos globally working its way into our lives. Decision-making brings new levels of uncertainty. Setting goals or fulfilling dreams seems far-fetched or at least so distant that you wonder why you are putting effort into realising them. Most people want to make a difference in their respective worlds but is this possible anymore? The stress of surviving in chaos seems to be mounting.
Dr Stephen R Covey, (insights and commentary in “Everyday Greatness”), recognises our deepest longing for meaning when he notes: “Within each individual lies the need for meaning – the longing to be of value. This craving for purpose propels us to make the choices that will bring us the most joy and satisfaction from life. But in a busy world, it is so easy to become diverted by lesser choices – choices that in the long run are of little value or meaning. And so, to gain the peace of mind and sense of accomplishment that we desire, we must pause momentarily to develop a clear image of the dreams, priorities, and goals that we believe will have the most lasting meaning, both for us and for others.”
So, what does this “pause” look like and how do we accomplish it well? James Thurber hints at self-awareness when he says: “All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.” Understanding the “why do I exist?” question and answering it for yourself is important for the cultivation of a peaceful heart – a sense of purpose, an understanding of your best contribution and a grasp of the value you specifically want to add. A “pause” looks at several issues involved with being and becoming:
- Spirituality – what aspects of my faith, values, and sense of moral uprightness drive my behaviour and enable me to contribute meaningfully? Are my beliefs influencing my behaviour positively?
- Self-awareness – do I understand myself, know myself, and am I aware of the impact that my life has on others? Am I obsessed with my own needs, or do I have capacity to be sensitive to the needs of others and meet them appropriately?
- Emotional intelligence – am I driven impulsively by emotional responses or am I able to stand back and reflect on approaches to myself and others that will engender growth, oneness, and sustainable relationships?
- Giftedness – what are my strengths, what do I love doing and am good at doing, what do others recognise in me as my talents, what do I do that causes others to smile?
- Initiative – am I allowing life to work on me or am I working on life? Do I simply sit back and be acted upon, or do I step forward and make a contribution?
- Focus – where your focus lies, that’s what your energy drives. If my focus is on negativity and what can’t be achieved, I waste my energy. If my focus is on possibility, I am energised and will be more creative, more collaborative, more purposeful.
The “why do I exist?” question is a profound one to answer – it is made daily as we choose anew to abandon our ‘spectator’ seats, rise to challenges, and contribute. It is an everyday choice, not a one-time event.