It’s been a while since my last post on here. A lot has been going on, and I shared bits on Instagram (follow me ;)). Now it’s time to expand on the clear sense of purpose that emerged with the world in crisis. A couple of weeks ago, I posted this:
A new crisis had showed up in the news, and it’s taking place only a one-day car trip away from my house. It hit me hard. My soul felt the suffering of all of humanity. My hope was struck by the senselessness and the powerlessness that washed over me for a while. Then, something else struck me: purpose. Purpose behind what has been happening to this world, purpose in my life’s mission, purpose in transforming the ugliness into something beautiful. I believe the World, Life, (the Whatever you call the transcendent thing that connects us all), has been trying to tell us something with much intent and intensity in the past couple of years.
Purpose in the pandemic
The global pandemic was in many ways a horrible thing humanity had to go through (and still is). Many, if not all, have gone through loss and grief, for someone, and/or for something (mental health, income, job, safety, social life, etc.). In the midst of all this, I remember the beginning when the whole world was in lockdown, there was some magic to be found. I am sure you also remember videos of what cities and other usually-crowded areas looked like once deserted, and when nature took over and animals enjoyed the quiet spaces. The stillness was something we had never witnessed or experienced. That stillness was such a gift, and yet an uncomfortable one for those who were always running (escaping), for those who were dreading looking inside…
Something else beautiful emerged at the beginning: cooperation, support, charity. There was an outpouring of generosity and compassion. Many went grocery shopping for more vulnerable members of society, many made donations to help those in need. Museums offered free virtual visits, and artists offered free virtual concerts. And so many more of these selfless and generous acts bloomed. There was a sense of connectedness across humanity, we were all in this together. Of course, we were all in the same storm, but not on the same boat, and it’s easy to see the unfairness and the dark side of this pandemic. But what I want to focus on here is that connectedness, that humanity.
Through the pandemic, many of us worked from home. Companies that were otherwise against it, had to find ways to accommodate it – some even realized remote work had benefits and employees could be trusted. Imagine that! As it went for long enough, many people found a new rhythm, a new balance, a new way of living life. Of course, there was always a desire to get a normal life again. But those who dared to embrace the stillness, and the change of pace and scenery, may have realized the “normality” they want is no longer the pre-pandemic normal model of life.
The purpose is the change of paradigm
This is obvious now as employees request more flexibility with their schedule and the continuation of some remote work. Another evident sign is “the great resignation” we hear about (read about it here, here, and here). People want meaning, fulfillment, balance. We are less and less willing to sacrifice our physical and mental health, our relationships, our passions, for a job, a career or the hope of one.
A wonderful man in his 70s, tells me about his great career. Some 40 years ago, he would place an ad in the newspaper to search for a new job. And he would receive hundreds of offers from companies. He could select exactly the one he wanted, and negotiate the conditions to his liking (home office was one of them). He had a long career in a multinational and has great stories of the many travels, weekends, parties he and his wife did with this company. He didn’t get rich, but he was always safe. He got a comfortable pension and is now happily retired. This is not the kind of story you hear nowadays, is it? And I know it’s not true for everyone in his generation, I also have grueling stories of loved ones, for instance losing their jobs in their 50s and never being hired anymore. But today, more and more, we are betrayed, treated like numbers, disposable. We can consider ourselves lucky enough when we have a job while many don’t even have this chance. And I am not even talking about all the discriminations, glass ceilings, harassment, etc. What is this world we’re living in?
When we embrace the stillness, we can notice all this. We can sit on the edge of the void that contains despair, pain, chaos, powerlessness, and all the dark side of humanity, and we can look at the light, the hope, the love, and all the bright side of humanity. And from this place of connectedness with ourselves, we can decide what matters. And many of us thought during the pandemic that we want more meaning and more space and time for what truly matters in life. And ‘the next shiny thing’ may not be on the list anymore, not at all costs, certainly not at the cost of our soul.
Losing faith and sight of purpose
A new challenge came when the pandemic slowed down and measures lifted. Many companies expected their employees to return to the way things were before. The frantic race started again, and the traffic jams caught us again. It’s not easy to swim against the current. When I talk with people about this, most agree that we do not wish to go back to those old meaningless ways, but how can we change things when we feel carried away by the current? We still have to pay the bills, right?
To make matters worse, we are barely out of the pandemic, if at all, and another crisis hits. War in Europe. A nuclear plant is hit by missiles, and fortunately, an atomic catastrophe is averted – for now… Horror is shown everywhere. These are people we can easily relate to, they lived a life just like us a few weeks ago. It’s just a few kilometers away. They are now fleeing to our countries. You can see “the lucky ones who could safely escape”, they are already here. It’s so tangible, and yet so unbelievable. I wanted to help and made donations immediately, yet that felt not enough. Then, a brave and big-hearted friend actually packed a van full of stuff to donate, drove to the border between Poland and Ukraine, and brought back two families. And he told me “it feels I am not doing enough, it’s a drop in the ocean”. That sense of powerlessness again, of free-falling in the void of despair, no matter how much we try.
But the trick for not falling into the void is to stay focused on the connectedness. Maybe we are just a pixel in the picture of humanity, but we are a contagious pixel, and soon our thoughts, emotions, and acts are infecting others. And that’s how you change the picture. And through the horror, you can see this change happening. An amazing outpouring of generosity and altruism is taking place, by people and by governments. Of course, it still doesn’t feel enough to stop the war and the atrocities, of course, there are other wars we have been less invested in. But notice how humanity responds to these new world challenges. The pixels are changing.
Purpose in each of us
Like many of my fellow humans, I have been pondering about the ambivalence of it all. I said it on my Instagram post “how do we go on with our lives when others are literally fighting for theirs? How do we balance the need to pay the bills and the alignment with our values? How do we accept that we all feel a certain powerlessness, and yet still find a way to have a meaningful impact?”. We want the world to change, we want more meaning and purpose, we want comfort and safety. Basically, many of us would prefer to go on with our lives and count on others to take care of repairing what’s wrong in the world. The task feels so big, and we feel so little.
But actually, what if the World, Life, (the Whatever you call the transcendent thing that connects us all), was really insistent that each of us needs to change our paradigm? Maybe the pandemic was not a strong enough lesson to encourage us on a new path, and as we go back to our old ways, we are forced to face another crisis. Tyranny, all forms of extremism leading to discrimination and violence, selfishness, consumerism depleting the planet, burning out trying to be superwoman and superman on all fronts, … it all needs to be replaced with altruism, integrity, humility, … It’s the battle of the two wolves I shared in another post, the one you feed is the one who wins. And this is not some far away, external battle, that’s the one raging inside each of us. So I believe there are three ways to approach this:
- DENIAL: some people will go on with their lives, chase the next promotion, the bigger car, the shinier thing. They may think these issues do not concern them, and that happiness and meaning will be guaranteed when [insert whatever desire]. They will avoid the stillness at all costs, life’s meaning will be eluding, but so will discomfort at least for a while. It may catch up with them when they least expect it, a good old existential crisis (burn out, illness, job loss or loss of a loved one, something that will shake their core and question their identity).
- DESPAIR: some people will let themselves free-fall in the void. Cynicism, bitterness, even depression, trying to numb the discomfort with addictions (seemingly healthy, or plainly unhealthy), giving up trying to change things, etc. They may think the world is a dark place, people are all selfish or evil, there’s no way out of this but in a box, happiness and meaning are overrated and unattainable. Existential crisis is their ‘permanent’ way of life.
- ACTION: some people will refuse to be in denial or despair (any longer), they know or hope there is another way. They understand that each of us has the responsibility and the power to bravely face our inner darkness (our ego, judgments, fears, wounds, …) and dare shine our light. They understand “be the change you wish to see in the world” is not an over-used cliché, that actually there is no greater truth nor greater need in this world.
What is your choice?
I hope you are or want to be in the third scenario. And if this seems like a daunting project, know that there are people who can accompany you on this journey with a torchlight, a first aid kit, and an empowering toolbox. If you have been reading this blog, you know that I have explored this my entire life. I made peace with my darkness, found my light. I studied psychology and wrote my thesis on life’s and work’s meaning. And now I am finishing my certification in coaching. Because my purpose is to help other souls on that existential journey, to find their meaning, their inner peace, and shine their light for a kinder and safer world.
If you want help on this journey, feel free to reach out to me. I would be honored to accompany you with my light, my first aid kit, and all my tools.
With much love,