During the last six months, many of us have had more time to sit and think about our life pattern than we have before.
Connecting to your purpose helps you navigate through scary times; it keeps you grounded to who you are and what you want to be in the world, and helps reduce any panic or fear you might be feeling because you focus on your direction instead.
This article includes ideas to help you reconnect to your purpose. To inspire you to think what you want your legacy to be so you can live that now.
When you consider the idea of leaving a legacy, many people jump to the conclusion that it means leaving money for your family, friends or charity. But what is the legacy you want to leave the world? How have you lived your life to help others and leave the world a better place?
Whatever you do (or don’t do) in life, you are making a difference, paying it forward and handing it over to the next generation.
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.“
Outside a pandemic, we often get caught up in the busy-ness of daily life. If you have a demanding job and personal responsibilities such as caring for other people, this can leave you with very little time to reflect. Suddenly, before you know it, it’s 20, 30 or 40 years down the line. So it’s important to build your purpose into your life now.
The benefits of doing this include:
- You become more purpose-focused rather than problem-focused
- It’s very motivating
- You’ll stop ‘sweating the small stuff’
- You will probably achieve more of value in your life than you otherwise would
- You become proactive rather than passive (and this builds your sense of self-worth)
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Imagine you are about to retire from work, what do you want to look back and see? (That question could also apply when you look back over the short-term, such as the end of a project role or contract that you know runs for a finite period.)
- What do you want people to think, feel and know about you?
- What mark do you want to leave on the world?
- What gives you meaning in life?
- What fulfils you?
- What do you want your life to stand for?
- How will the world be a better place because you were in it?
- What lessons would you like to pass on to future generations?
- What contribution do you want to make to your field or profession?
- How can you serve?
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.“
After you’ve answered the big question “what do you want?”, ask yourself these follow-up questions:
- What would that do for you and others?
- What lives will you have touched?
- What will it look like, sound like and feel like?
- What will others see, hear and feel?
- What is stopping you having that or doing that today?
- What will you do about it?
It may be that you can start with some baby steps today that will get you on your way towards changing your mindset and behaviour. Draw a timeline showing where you will be after one month, three months and beyond. When do you want this change to be embedded so it becomes a constant part of your mindset and practices?
What do you need to let go off to enable that to happen? You need to be prepared to leave environments and relationships behind that don’t serve you, that you find toxic, or that no longer fit you.
Hint: Sometimes it helps to do this exercise with someone else who will be a good thinking partner and will give you space to consider these big questions. Someone who will sit alongside you and help you get clear about it all. This could be a friend, a colleague or a coach like me.
Life lessons in lockdown
We’ve been experiencing this pandemic for six months now, and it’s given us the chance to learn quite a lot about ourselves. With everyone in the same boat, suffering the same restrictions, and with the same freedoms temporarily taken away, we’ve all shared a moment to breathe. To step back and reflect. To think about the pattern and pace of life, and decide what permanent changes we want to make.
Maybe you have already explored your personal likes and dislikes, reminded yourself who you really are, and tested your relationships? Perhaps you’ve discovered that a simpler life can be quite pleasant?
I have aimed to use my time productively, whilst also enjoying the extra mental space. While the outside world was going crazy, I found gardening very therapeutic. I’ve learned more about it in the last six months then throughout my whole life! I find it very peaceful, and I’m very proud of the design changes I’ve made and that I’ve done it all myself. I realise I’m lucky to have a large garden to enjoy. In the past, I found it too intimidating to tackle so I employed a gardener. But I’ve now discovered that I can do it, and that the garden is kind – it responds to your touch and attention.
I’ve also learned yoga, and have recently been working through a 30-day yoga challenge. Before lockdown, I confess I was always a bit dismissive of yoga. I thought it was just about stretching, and was maybe even a bit wimpy. Now I realise it’s about strength, balance and flexibility, and requires real concentration. As a result, I am more in touch with my body. Yoga teaches you to be kind to yourself. It’s about practising a journey, not about finding the perfect pose, or worrying when you fall over, if you can’t reach your toes or do the ideal downward dog.
Many people I’ve talked to have said they realise they don’t need all the fancy, expensive holidays, clothes and gadgets they’re used to buying. They quite like being at home more.
During this time, what have you learned about yourself? What have you discovered about what you want compared what you need in life to flourish?
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.“
As we enter the last quarter of the year, where do you want to be by 31st December 2020 – both physically and emotionally? What relationships do you want to nurture and invest time in? What relationships do you want to let go?
Take a pack of sticky notes, and write down everything you want, with one desire on each note. Spread out your notes on the table, and pick a maximum of five things that you absolutely need in order to flourish.
Look at your life today, including your mindset and practices. Which things do you want to stop? Which things do you want to start? Which things do you want to continue? (Even if the things you want to continue you have only begun during the last six months.)
Note these three tips
- It takes time to adopt any new habit or way of looking at things. There is a reason my yoga challenge lasted 30 days. It’s because you need to make any new habit part of your daily routine to give it more chance to stick
- If you don’t feel quite sure about something, or see it as overwhelming, it’s OK to experiment. Just try it. If it doesn’t work, then change or stop it
- Remember that life is never static – we’ve seen that more this year than ever. Stay open to the fact that that what you need now may change again in future
Tune into your mental health
Be attuned into how certain people and activities make you feel, and try to get more in touch with your physical and mental health.
Mental health is now featured more often in the media. It is recognised, acknowledged and accepted that it’s OK to admit you’re not OK and that you need help. So, be more in tune with your own mental health, and pay attention to your diet, get enough sleep and exercise – particularly if you are working from home and at your desk every day, make sure you get up and move regularly, outside in the fresh air if you can.
Ask yourself these three questions daily:
- What are you grateful for today?
- What have you learned today?
- What action will you take based on this?
Complete these two sentences:
- “I am living my values and beliefs when I am…”
- “I feel valued and appreciated when…”
Both of these were suggestions were made to me by Charles May from my network, when I was needing some clarity for myself.
Being grateful helps to ground us and is good for our mental health. Being aware of your values is an important part of creating self-awareness, which in turn informs your purpose. If you’d like to know how to identify your values, please get in touch and I’ll give you some guidance.
If you found this useful, you might also enjoy my other articles:
- Why and how to use positive psychology
- Mindfulness and what it means for you
- Why your brain needs time to rest
- Showing gratitude: Why it’s good for you and others
- Understanding and managing anxiety
- How to empty your busy mind
- How to be an agile leader
- Creating a values-driven organisation
- Are you at risk of burnout? (eulogy section)
- Being your authentic self (masks section)