In the last blog I discussed hope and its necessity in one’s psyche to overcome anxiety, stress, depression and despair. I spoke of prisoners of war during the Vietnam conflict and their need to accomplish a daily task allowing their hope for today and tomorrow to overcome the potential reality of consuming despair that crouched at their door every day. Each day they faced uncertainty of life, fear of physical harm, futility in finding a way out, anger at the circumstances, and a lack of control over daily challenges. Does this not mirror the impact of COVID-19 over the last fourteen months? So, if hope is the antidote, then what is the catalyst that lights the fire, stirs the heart, motivates the mind, and portends a better future?
It is my belief that the catalyst for hope is “purpose” which centers one’s ambition and energy on a positive psychological and emotional pathway that mitigates the forces of circumstance and limitation. Purpose does not eliminate reality, rather it allows one to persevere in the face of reality. The purpose each day for the POWs of Vietnam was to stay alive, look to a future of freedom, reunite with their loved ones, and to be safe at home in the United States. Purpose drives intentionality that in turn causes one to be resolute in the face of adversity to achieve a desired outcome.
In his article, “The Power of Purpose”, Steve Taylor Ph.D. states, “The need for purpose is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. Human beings crave purpose and suffer serious psychological difficulties when we don’t have it. Purpose is a fundamental component of a fulfilling life.” He goes on, “When you have a sense of purpose, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself.” Defining your purpose allows you to be single-mindedly focused on your goals, those whom you want to help, where you want to be, and who you want to be. One can do this in spite of the difficulties that are present.
I often hear the critic say, “I’m just being realistic,” to which I contend Dr. Taylor would say, “When you’re ‘in purpose’ — that is, engaged with and working towards your purpose — life becomes easier, less complicated, and stressful. You become more mono-focused, like an arrow flying towards its target, and your mind feels somehow taut and strong, with less space for negativity to seep in.” Purpose infuses your very being with hope.
Some vignettes on purpose:
- The purpose of Apple is not to sell more iPhones and neat technology to make billions of dollars, but to “help people live a better life by being more connected with family, friends and the world.” By the way, they so happen to sell a lot of iPhones and technology, and make a lot of money.
- Nelson Mandela survived twenty-seven years in South African prisons under unbearable conditions, yet he never forgot his purpose to free South Africa from apartheid, its official policy of racial separation. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully represented democratic election. Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” He certainly lived a purpose-driven life.
- Author and artist, Joni Eareckson Tada suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down at the young age of seventeen. Her purpose in life was to inspire and serve others. Watch her work and discuss her art by clicking here. If you want to see the impact of purpose, search for Joni on Wikipedia and be amazed.
- As for me personally, I have found that when I focus my purpose on others, I reap the greatest rewards. My friend, Paul, once said to me, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” In essence, how can I make their lives better and more fulfilling?
Remember in the story, Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire cat for directions: “Would you tell me, please, which is the way to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat. “I do not much care where,” responded Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.
Exactly, with no sense of purpose or physical, emotional, social, intellectual, or spiritual destination, one flounders, becomes anxious, loses perspective and often surrenders to the circumstances – do not let this be you. The question for you to consider is, “What is my purpose in life?” Your purpose does not have to be grandiose, but rather can be as simple as helping one person each day with a word of encouragement, a kind deed, or a listening ear. Yes, purpose can be that simple.
Over the past year of dealing with a pandemic, separation, confusion, uncertainty, and masks, have you lost your sense of direction and purpose? I encourage you greatly to become ambitious with your purpose, even in the face of uncertainty and challenge.
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