The global pandemic has brought significant changes to the way we live. Surely, it has been a confronting year with an increase in fear, anxiety, and other uncomfortable emotional responses. One important element to stay centered amidst the storm around me was to align with my purpose. Purpose is not a destination, suggests research, but a journey and a practice. In this week’s blog post, I will share some tricks & tools that are useful to live a purposeful life.
As on every journey, it is important to plan and take the right equipment with you. A good starting point for building a purpose is identifying your most important values. Values can be a great source of energy, especially in difficult times. It is like a tent on a hiking trip that will protect you from heavy storms and unexpected rainfalls.
During this week’s experiment, I wrote down my values. I could boil it down to 5 core values:
- Intimate Relationships;
- Openness / Tolerance;
- Living a middle path in balance;
As I worked with values before these came up rather naturally. In case you are less familiar with your values, I can recommend using a pre-defined list of values. There are plenty available online 😉
Once I have written down my values, I pondered on how to bring them into existence. Luckily I found a journaling exercise that has been published by the Greater Good institute. The journaling practice suggests choosing at least one of these values to reflect on specific situations during my day. Especially in moments when I feel lost, using my values as a compass to reflect on these situations allows me to learn and grow from them. But also the other way around. In situations in which I had to make decisions I could start by asking myself, how is this aligned to my values? The greatest thing about values is when you not only identified them but also make decisions according to them. Every day we have to make numerous decisions. For instance, shall I call my grandmother today? Shall I tell my friend that I was hurt about what she said last time? Shall I call my boss and tell her that I appreciate her support in the past months? In these situations being aware and connected to your values can be very helpful to make decisions according to your purpose.
Now we have packed our tent. But what about the other equipment parts? The sleeping bag? The water bottle? And so on…
Purpose as constant practice and iteration
Working on your purpose is a lifespan project, write expert Kendall Bronk and her colleagues in a 2009 paper. If we’re able to revisit and renew our sense of purpose as we navigate milestones and transitions, suggests this research, then we can look forward to more satisfying, meaningful lives. In other words, your purpose adapts to your life circumstances and decisions. For instance, if you become a parent your focus most likely shifts to the child. Before you may have had the purpose of thriving in your professional life. Now your priority shifts and you want to be there for your child. To be a good parent. Hence, it is good to go back to them once in a while and check if your purpose is still aligning with your current life circumstances.
Tell your story
Many of us do meaningful things. One is currently working in busy hospitals helping all the sick people. Another one is providing therapy to those who have lost someone, or who are struggling mentally with the pandemic. Others are currently teaching young kids and do everything they can to keep the classroom lively and engaging for the students. Every one of us is doing something worthwhile sharing. Oftentimes, we tend to make ourselves smaller than we are. We think that our story is not worth sharing. Stop that! Your story can inspire others to walk a similar path. The more you share your story, the better it manifests in your day to day activities.
What if I lost connection to my purpose?
Let’s be honest, sometimes we are too much involved in our day to day challenges so that living a purposeful life seems far away. That is natural, and should not be neglected. So, what can we do when we are too busy to bother about our purpose? One way is changing sceneries. This can take different forms. From going for a walk to travel for a longer period. It is about getting yourself in a new context in which you can connect again to your true nature. The context around you can help you to reconnect to your values and hopes. Sometimes, you are so absorbed that you need to break through the clouds. Then a retreat or a hiking trip might be a great way to facilitate this “pilgrim” like journey. Other times, you just need to go for a walk and reconnect to your emotional world.
To round up, having connected to my purpose and values was a cornerstone in this pandemic to stay engaged and motivated in what I do. It also allowed me to prioritize the things that I value such as writing and sharing these blog posts, which (hopefully) inspire others to find ways to (re-)connect with their happiness.
Cotton Bronk, K., Hill, P. L., Lapsley, D. K., Talib, T. L., & Finch, H. (2009). Purpose, hope, and life
satisfaction in three age groups. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 500-510.
Newman, K. M. (2020). How purpose changes across your lifetimes?. Retrieved 31.10.2020 from
Jane Park (2020). Retrieved 31.10.2020 from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/video/item/how_to_connect_with_what_matters_toyou