Humans are innately tuned towards connectedness: put them in any situation and somehow, a reaching out starts happening. It could be as subtle as a meeting of eyes, or enormously visible and physical.
It’s happening all around us, right now.
During a conversation with a friend this morning, we expressed where we find our empathetic thoughts going, as fear and destruction grips parts of our country. Beyond the national and herd empathy, it was interesting to see how we individually related to the ‘connected affected’: people we know personally who are locked in their homes as violence rages around them.
She says she fell apart when a friend of many decades – a Doctor of psychology – expressed private fear and helplessness. She wasn’t meant to. This is the woman who has it all together, all the time. If she had lost hope, what chances did the rest of us have?
A few hours later, this same psychologist was reaching out to counsel others and re-build the community around her.
For me? It was the thought of this same fear and helplessness in industry and civil leaders, who – in the face of personal and immediate destruction of businesses – are being looked to, by their employees and teams, for bold leadership. They don’t have the luxury of helplessness. There are things to be done and tough decisions to be made. They haven’t stopped being the CEO because their business has burnt to the ground.
What enables these two people, specifically, and many more like them in general, to reach to the heart of their resilience and start leading the way?
It’s a sense of purpose.
Having an innate sense of purpose helps us to know, intuitively, how we are being called on to respond when faced with challenge.
What is purpose? It’s an all-encompassing sense of what matters in a person’s life. A sense of direction, firm intent, and an understanding that the contribution you’re making reaches beyond you. It’s the feeling and knowledge that you can make a difference, in a meaningful way of your own choosing.
Purpose gets us out of bed when we’d rather pull the covers over and cry. Purpose makes us start that project, take that risk, speak our truth. Purpose feels good because it is unique to each person. Embracing your purpose not only energises and encourages you to act bravely, but it is felt by the people around you, as it impacts meaningfully on their lives.
I encourage you over the next few weeks to examine your reactions to what is going on around us in South Africa. What is your heart telling you it wants to do for others? How is it empathizing and connecting? If you haven’t seriously thought before about your unique purpose in life, this is a wonderful starting point, because your responses will be coming from a truly authentic space.
There’s a gift in this madness, after all.