“He who has a why can bear any how.” Dr. Viktor Frankl.
In a world that seems to endlessly promote “self” as the reason and justification for actions, there is an inherent danger.
The danger is that when push comes to shove, those who are all about “me” can find themselves without a moral compass and the necessary skills to endure “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and unable to find the resilience to “to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them” (Hamlet).
There is an alternative!
As human beings, we’re wired for far more than mere survival. Without a compelling answer to the question “Survival for the sake of what?” we can find ourselves, to borrow from Thoreau, “living lives of quiet desperation”.
When the key question in your life is “Why should I go on?”, or “Why should I bother to try?” it is often what you have linked to your life outside your own needs, wants and desires, that will gift you the resilience you need to push on or push through.
A leading expert on resilience, Andrew Shatté, Ph.D., has identified the things that can give us the resilience to face a life that can be difficult and unfair.
1: Individual goals. At this basic level, you’re concerned mainly with what you have and achieve, be it a certain amount of money or standard of living, a specific job or goal, for none other than the pleasure and satisfaction it creates for you and you alone.
2: Family. This takes your why a step beyond yourself to include the people closest to you. If your motivation includes doing more for your family, or setting an example for your children, then you function at this level.
3: Community. You are driven not just by your own achievements or the well-being of your family, but by the world around you, be it the city or town in which you live to the global community.
4: Religion, spirituality, values. If you feel connected to something larger than yourself, you’re driven by the very highest level of achievement, greater than the people around you, whether that means God, spirituality, or a set of values you live by. In short, something that will outlast and outlive you.
“The higher the level of engagement with others, the greater your resilience. With each step up in the connection, you’re more resilient — not to mention, more satisfied. Each subsequent level strives for more and deeper reach, and it’s that higher purpose that gives you the power to withstand anything. As we like to say, the bigger the boat, the less likely it is to capsize. By aligning your efforts with something bigger than yourself or your own achievements, you infuse your efforts with passion and purpose.”
This is not to say that you should not have personal dreams and goals. It means that your dreams can add to the positive side of a world that often needs examples of energy, passion and willingness to make sacrifices to achieve.
Sometimes, looking into yourself can actually be an unselfish act when you find that what lights a spark in you can also be a light for others. Think:
What am I good at? Maybe you have great people skills or can see patterns amid complexity. How about putting your skills into a context of, how can my success in using my talents not only advance my career but also be a boon to others.
Where can you do the most good? Your skills and talents can be used to make the world a better place – if you choose. What if you are uniquely positioned to fill the needs of others by using your talents?
How can I afford to live while serving others? While living purposefully means adding a mental or psychological richness to your life, following the money and following your heart do not have to be mutually exclusive.
How may I best serve? It is not selfish to want to achieve, do well and make a good life for yourself but, paradoxically, thinking outside yourself and acting in the greater good may provide you with the strength you need to make your goals not only achievable, but worthwhile.
Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School