My heart aches with the increasing amounts of suffering, unmet need, and dysfunction being revealed every day around the globe. It’s painful to see how little we have evolved as a society, and eye opening to recognize that the Western World can no longer pretend to hold moral authority in so many ways.
In deep conversations with both liberals and conservatives, I hear a common thread we all share, to hold certain values close to our hearts. And we all want to do what we can to protect our own values.
I see the anguish many of us feel in facing so much that feels like it’s gone horribly wrong, and so many actions to choose from that might make a difference. There’s the inner work needed for us to be the change we want to see, the opportunity to fund critical legal and environmental challenges, the calling to speak the truth that needs to be revealed, and more. So how do you choose where and how to spend your precious time?
There are two key components in resolving this dilemma. First, it’s imperative to get clear on your purpose — the specific difference you are meant to make and who you are meant to serve. Then the next step is to choose how to prioritize the expression of that purpose in the midst of your busy days.
How often do you stop the instinctual drive to respond to the demands of the outer world and pause long enough to access your inner compass? This is a required commitment if you are to have an impact in the chaos around us. And in order to see clearly what is needed, how easily are you able to set aside the reactivity each of us feels when our values are threatened?
Sometimes it takes negotiation with certain protective parts of our psyche to be able to step into the role being asked of us. We don’t all have to be Mother Theresa and live a life of sacrifice to bring about transformation. You might make promises to yourself that you will only spend a set number of hours each week on purposeful projects, or that you will start speaking in small friendly venues before going bigger.
Just notice what fears and concerns hold you back, and find practical step-by-step ways to address them. Page by page a book is written.
Once you are clear on how you want to contribute, assess all the activities taking up your time. Reflect on what you might need to delay, delegate or delete to make room for what matters most to you.
A useful tool is to make a “purposeful activity grid” that lists all your activities and commitments down the left side, and all the reasons why you do them across the top. Typical reasons include finances, fun, connection, a sense of duty, professional development, health, or a sense of purposeful calling. Then, for each activity, look across the row and place a checkmark underneath the reasons why you do it.
If you have an open communication channel with a voice of inner wisdom, make an extra column at the far right to note what that source has to say about the relative purposefulness of each activity. Something that may have been very purposeful for you a year ago may now be a distraction.
Finally, step back and look at your grid and see what you notice. What lights up as the most potent use of your gifts right now, and what is ready to be let go?
Have fun, and may we all gain the clarity we need in helping build a better world that honors all!