Reflecting on our Larger Purpose and Needed Human Connections
By Minna Allarakhia
Engaged Thinking Associates Inc.
Certainly, we can all agree that our world and lives have changed dramatically. From changing how we work, to homeschooling our children, worrying about our health and that of our family members, being concerned about the future and economic stability of our household. People are understandably feeling overwhelmed. The uncertainty of tomorrow and when we might begin to re-integrate into our old lives, where routine may have provided a sense of comfort, is only adding to our anxiety. How might we move beyond this uncertainty to chart a brighter and clearer future for ourselves?
Perhaps the answer can be found by first analyzing what has started to change for the better in our lives.
Technology has enabled us to connect to one another near and far, and is enabling us to continue with some sense of routine as we seek to protect our family, friends and community. However, working from home and social distancing may have also enabled us to realize the personal connectivity missing in our lives-that is, personal connectivity with our children, spouse and other family members. Has technology truly enabled or perhaps hindered an emotional connection to one another? Can we find a new balance between technologically driven connections and the need for a deeper, more emotional connection to family and friends when this crisis passes? Consider how you might have rescheduled your daily life to continue to enjoy more healthful connections to those that you love dearly and how you will maintain these connections moving forward.
Values and Beliefs
Working from home has in some sense allowed us to “slow down”. To reflect on the future. Given the daily grind, we may have forgotten what we truly value and the beliefs that have guided us (as our inner voices may have been quiet for a while). Take a moment now to list these values — personal values or universal values that have defined you. What might you hope to change? For example, being more creative, being more generous, seeking the truth, encouraging others, championing the rights of others, being more responsible and being more committed to the people in our lives, as well as the world in which we work and play. Reflect on what you may have learned about yourself or what you may have been reminded about.
Turning then to beliefs, what core beliefs have guided you? In some cases, these core beliefs have been positive-enabling you, and in others negative-hindering you. Take a moment now to consider what your core beliefs are with respect to yourself, other people, your world and the future. Write these beliefs down across these four categories. As we seek to help and engage one another through this crisis, collectively work to distance ourselves to protect our community, and come to realize how interconnected we truly are, our core beliefs may change and foster new, life-enriching behaviours.
Our Larger Purpose
Life and my purpose have become even more important today. The one question that dominates, is how can I fulfill a larger purpose? For me, living for a larger purpose has always included uplifting my family. But now more so than ever, championing our youth to find the solutions to our global challenges has become important.
The purpose mindset considers the impact of our activities and that of our organizations on stakeholders — with a commitment to making a difference in the lives of others and the community at large. The purpose mindset also considers how personal goals align with professional goals. The closer the alignment, the more fulfilled and likely engaged you will be in your daily activities.
Finding work-life balance, seeking new leadership opportunities, volunteering, reaching out to those who are isolated, mentoring others, choosing to work for organizations or seeking new professional opportunities that foster the purpose mindset, are all examples of living for the larger purpose. Similarly, innovating for impact, working toward the sustainable development goals, corporate social responsibility, designing for and enabling sustainable production, can define the larger purpose of organizations.
Thinking about the Future
It is obvious that our Earth is under stress. The signs are there from nature-from air pollution, to the acidification of the ocean, local water pollution, changes in precipitation, rising water levels, global warming, extreme weather events, deforestation, the emergence of disease as well as other changes in our personal health attributable to environmental changes. The question also arises as to role of human activity and ecosystem stressors on the current crisis we are facing. Researchers have noted the impact of human encroachment into natural ecosystems as providing increased contact with new diseases and their vectors.
Furthermore, we need to ask ourselves what the impact has been to air pollution, carbon emissions, water pollution and even the natural spaces around us both before and after social distancing. If we are capable of slowing down and changing our behaviour to save lives today, we should seriously consider the behaviour change needed to save our Earth for the health of future generations.
This crisis has demonstrated human resilience and the power of collective action. Human beings across the world are rising up to protect the vulnerable and our front-line workers. We also see the daily kindnesses between friends and family as we try to cope with the stress of social distancing and the sudden change in the way we live and work. From health and wellness webinars, to online courses to expand our minds, to teachers engaging students via video conferencing, to researchers across the globe collaborating in search of a treatment to protect us from this new threat, to using technology to connect with one another in our professional activities, we are finding new solutions to weather this crisis. Each week, we read or hear about these creative and touching efforts to keep connected. The best of humanity can be seen through these stories. Reflecting on this, it is readily apparent that we have the ability to jointly discuss how to protect the Earth moving forward, what our roles are to mitigate and further prevent global warming, how to advocate for responsible production and consumption, as well as challenge governments across the world to transparently enforce policies to address climate change.
The solutions exist. We need to work together to find these solutions now to prevent irreversible damage to the Earth and humanity. We need to look to the current crisis to drive needed individual and collective change; it’s already underway, we need only continue the self-reflection, expand the discussion, and our personal connections as we seek to live and work for our larger purpose-be it in our personal lives, in our organizations, in our communities and for our world.
Included with this article is an infographic which you can use to reflect on your values, beliefs and larger purpose.
Once you have completed the infographic, try using mind mapping to visualize the connection between your values, beliefs and larger purpose. Start in the middle of the page with the central thought or idea. In this case, the central idea is Finding my Larger Purpose. Your Larger Purpose can be linked to your personal or professional life. From this central idea, the goal is work outward and grow the map with additional thoughts and ideas. Think about how your larger purpose connects to your values and the positive beliefs about yourself, other people, your world and the future.
I have included an example of a mind map I am developing to redefine my larger purpose.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or join me as I continue the discussion with my students and colleagues. I look forward to hearing from you as you chart your path forward!