Last night I had drinks with a friend, and we talked a lot about Big Scary Things going on the world. After a bit she said, "Let's talk about something else for a while," which was a healthy and lovely suggestion. But a part of me thought, "How?" and "Why?"
How can we pretend it's a normal Wednesday night out, when there are unthinkable atrocities going on in other parts of the world?
How can we order highballs and the house red, when there's major domestic uncertainty?
We go through the motions of our day because it's what we know. It's what's on the schedule. Because we still have to clean the litter box and take carrots to soccer practice and buy Christmas presents and pay the heating bill. And, we feel helpless. We don't know what to do.
How can you find purpose when the future, not just your future, but the future of Big Things like nations, institutions, and entire groups of people feel uncertain?
Here are some suggestions:
Finding Purpose in Uncertain Times
1 | Know what you believe in.
Take out a blank piece of paper and at the top, write "I believe..." and then fill up the page with statements about what you believe.
Your answers may range from the trivial to the profound. This is a self-inventory. A reckoning. A declaration. A chance to get your bearings.
When up is down and down is up, you need your own compass. This is a good start.
2 | Remember who you are.
When something rocks your sense of self, safety, or purpose, remember who you are.
Remember your lineage and where you came from. Remember all the things you’ve done before this, all the challenges you have overcome. Remember your ability and power.
3 | Don't wait for courage; create it.
The most courageous people have a history of doing courageous things.
That's because courage is not something you sit around hoping will show up. Courage is something you create.
If you want bigger biceps, you don't write in your journal about how you want to be stronger and think that alone will work. You pick up a 10 lb weight, do some curls, and then go drink a protein shake. Once 10 lbs doesn't feel heavy anymore, you up your weight. The stress on the muscle + recovery is what makes it grow.
If you want to have more courage, you need appropriate stress and recovery. So start by doing something small that takes courage, and then go recover from it with the help of self-care and the support of friends. Eventually the small things will feel easy, and you'll be equipped to do more courageous things.
4 | Build your legacy every day.
If you think you can't change everything, you're right. If you think you can't change anything, you're wrong.
You have a chance every single day to shape the world in a positive way. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
5 | Stand up.
One of the biggest threats the world faces is fear-driven conformity. When you go along with something you know is wrong to avoid discomfort, judgement, or confrontation, it feels bad.
There are also risks in being the one who stands up and says, "Hey, this isn't right." But we all need to be willing to do this. Refer to #3.
6 | Answer your callings.
You may feel deeply compelled to do things you've never thought were important before. Answer the call.
This is not a contest. You don't have to quit your job and join the Peace Corps for it to count unless that's your specific calling. Maybe that means volunteering, standing up to a bully at work, donating to a new cause, initiating family conversations, or learning about people you know little about.
You are strong. You are wise. You are capable. You are NOT powerless.
Drink a highball on a Wednesday night. Change the litter box. Pay the heating bill. But don't pretend it's an average day when Big Things happen. It's not. Let your sense of purpose guide your action.