It is not what I can consume but what I leave behind which is significant. Achievement is not what I manage to collect for myself, but what I can provide as a result of my efforts. At the end of it all the true test will be what impact I had on my social environment and on the world in general.
A parasitic attitude of selfish acquiring, drains the pool of sharing. Consumerism depletes the resources that were meant for the general good for all. Before you can even start to ask the question; “What is my purpose in life?”, you need to make it out for yourself what you want to leave behind.
A decision about one’s own legacy provides a focus on your ambition. Then, every aspect of life becomes a driver towards meaningfulness. A suitable starting point would be to formulate a “legacy-will” towards which, one can live purposefully.
Growth has to do with the creation of options. Once you run out of choices, there’s not much to live for any longer. Functional and happy people are those who manage to create options in life. This ability is embedded in the human DNA and it is one of the skills that separate us from the other creatures we share our world with.
But unlike other natural abilities, this is one, when neglected, it fades into obscurity.
There are mainly two ways of ensuring progression in this area. The first being the constant development of the number of skills you have. While keeping those you possess active, learn something new every year. The increase of abilities is direct proportionate to the number of options you have in life.
The second is to develop an eye for the gap. The skill to see an opportunity needs to be trained and nurtured.
Having options put one in a position of power, the power of choice.
I am, because we are. “Ubuntu” is the African word for describing the essence of co-existence and the importance of my own position in society. Although my own place in humanity is largely defined by the group I find myself in, my value is determined by myself.
The position I occupy does not establish my worth. The influence I have on my environment does. That is the reason why statues are only built for people who influenced society. Usually having to go against the flow of the usual. Not allowing the way of least resistance to direct their actions.
Standing alone amongst my peers and facing the challenge of the strong current of opposing the institutionalized wrongs that will define me. That is why no statues are built for people who had an easy life.
Whistleblowing is not seen as a virtue among those who have vested interests in mediocrity and the iniquitous.
My attitude towards my own purpose should then rather be: “We are because I am”.
On our journey in becoming who we ought to be, we leave a trail of remnants. Evidence of good and – not so good- choices. Traces of our passing by. Some, in the form of bruises in the lives of people we were unkind or uncaring to, or signs of positive growth through our interest in others.
We are not always aware what influence or effect we have on those who we meet in the normal course of our journey but it is good to be mindful of the fact that all contact with others is significant.
It is not possible to rectify all the wrongs we willingly and unknowingly caused during our wandering through this world. What is possible though, is to take time to reflect over our conduct and interaction with those who we cross paths with. No need to wait till we get feedback, just an inner objective reflection on the way we live life. Pass by the wrecks we left behind because of arrogance or indifference and celebrate the stories of growth because of our care or interest.
Then, concentrate to live with an intense consciousness of leaving a legacy of hope.
The way to the top is often interrupted with a downward turn. In striving to achieve excellence, the route to follow does not allow for an uninterrupted upward gradient. Where excellence does not mean to be the best, but to constantly improve. Not in relation to “others”, but compared to one self. Improving on your own abilities, capabilities and self-worth that are where achieving excellence becomes a constant fight against yourself.
In order to give the next step to reach the next level, there is the need for an ongoing reflection of what lies below the surface. The shadow of what your personality shines towards the world around you. The hidden motives that push you, the concealed anger you mask as “drive”. The envy you present as empathy or the arrogance you screen behind confidence.
The only way to discover and understand the shadow-side is to dive down into who I really am. To constantly ask the question, “why do I feel this way?” or “What is it I actually want?” “Why am I upset?” This kind of diving, gives you the insight into yourself to venture forward and upward.
In Africa there is a saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together”. In venturing through this life one quickly learns that going alone is very dangerous, very risky and extremely lonely. Somewhere in the late teens of one’s life the main objective is to go alone. Be independent, do your own thing. It is only in the first major predicament that the realization dawns on you that you actually need others not only to survive but also, and especially, to get ahead – to grow.
Soon you also get to understand that although you may need the others around you, you cannot “like” everyone. Some of those you come across just cannot fit into your template of like-ness. Usually we then try to avoid those or at least evade them to save yourself from having to deal with them. Yet, the sooner one learns to grasp the fact that not to like someone is not to be confused with not to respect or even endure those.
We often hear the phrase that we should “love” one another. That does not mean to “like” everybody is even possible. It means to respect the others and acknowledge the contribution they can make in assisting me to develop my own strengths.
Alone, personal growth is just not possible. Only when you recognize the value of those around you- the ones you like as well as those you don’t- growth towards maturity can commence. Together is more.
Energy is indestructible. This is what science teaches us. It can only be changed in another form of energy or made available for alternative use. In the natural world, growth depends on energy made available through a myriad of ways. In all cases however, the process involves the breakdown of something to avail the energy. In nature life thrives on decay because of this very reason.
So often we miss the opportunity to seize the moment because we wait for “things” to get better. In times of hardship or pressure, when our world falls apart we tend to withdraw and wait for our energy to return. One big mistake! The best songs are composed during times of disappointment or grief. Great books are born out of brokenness and the rot of destruction. Best ideas rise out of the chaos of war, or natural disasters.
This is indeed true of personal growth too. Most people will not change unless they end up in a mess or find themselves in an impossible position. Learn to understand the potential that’s locked up in frustration and disappointment.
Use to your advantage the energy released by decay and breakdown of the status quo.