My friend Liz, a founder of the peace-building non-profit called What Better Looks Like, always says, "Pay attention to the stories you gravitate towards most." When Covid first effected my life, my full time job was temporarily suspended because we were deemed nonessential. My first week of unemployment was spent with the Lord of the Rings, Two Towers and Return of the King on repeat while I processed sudden change and uncertainty. I gravitate to this series because I am inspired by three main themes: Leadership can be found in the most unassuming places, Courage is necessary to defend the kindest and most honorable aspects of human nature, and even the smallest person can change the change the course of the future.
All three themes light a fire in my belly when I think about them. I get inspired to step into leadership. I do not shy away from the call of courage even when I am scared and want to hide. And finally, as a shorter, plumper woman, who loves life, I can relate heavily to the Hobbit culture... and personally, I feel they figured out the way to do life, "right."
So when I began my first week in isolation, I had LOTR's going on in the background as I dug into my own company, All Hands In, an endeavor which has yet to be profitable but still wakes me up at 3 am with excitement and creativity. All Hands In, I have come to realize is my purpose and it has taken a pandemic to bring that to light. This is the work I return to everyday, in some form or another, to give me hope, connection and excitement. Three weeks ago I might have said, "Doing soft skills development using the tool of puppetry is probably my purpose." Today I know this emphatically.
I wake each day without profit motivating me and expand my work in soft skills development.
I created a Facebook group over three years ago to promote my work. The group called Kick Assers, had ebbed and flowed in priority, but has now become my life raft for strengthening community centered around soft skills. I take the time I need each day to do this work, feel a sense of completion and then I rest. I have reexamined my puppetry experience and come up with new and innovated ways to expand the use this tool, to develop soft skills. I am motivated, driven and passionate without the shackles of profitability, performance, or expectations. Without the shame of, "I'm not doing enough," I am given the space to create what inspires me. That may be the only upside to this dark chapter in our history. But I also know I am not alone.
Everyday I read stories about people making simple choices to bring, health, joy, comfort, connection, wisdom, and kindness to others. Everyday I read these stories and think, "There is some element of purpose we are tapping into in this moment." I see friends return to activities which solely bring them joy, because they need it most right now. Baking, reading, writing, drawing, connecting with friends and family, dancing, finding ways to serve, and finding peace in stillness all seem to be increasing among those who are present in this moment. It's amazing to witness.
If we strengthen our awareness, the stress, uncertainty, and anxiety of this moment also comes with an opportunity for insight, purpose and passion. For those of us gifted time right now, we have an opportunity to return to the things we love, even if we can only enjoy them (like travel) in our minds. Paying attention to what we gravitate towards in our thoughts and actions right now, much like the stories we surround ourselves with, is telling us valuable information. Wishing we could return to a favorite location is an awareness clue. Feeling a sense of joy as we dance in our living rooms, is an awareness clue. Enjoying the deeply relaxing aspects of a bath, is an awareness clue. Sewing masks at a fever pitch, is an awareness clue. But we have to be listening to hear this.
Finding purpose in this moment means becoming aware of our actions. What excites us? Where are we finding joy? When do we feel most centered? Answering these questions, especially at this moment creates an opportunity to discover purpose.
Conversely awareness of stress, anxiety, fear, and anger can also be helpful. Developing awareness of what isn't working is also beneficial right now. When we experience anxiety from the news, having to deal with bureaucracy, or even navigating stressful relationships, this is all information guiding us. We are experiencing these reactions because we don't like seeing our world in pain. We don't like feeling that institutions created to protect us are failing us. We don't like having strife with those we love and care about. All of these stresses are painful, but if we are using our awareness we can also see our stress is sending us a message that change is needed.
While many of us have been leveled down to tier 1 or 2 on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, this struggle is not without hope. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings. When you experience sensations of joy, relaxation, excitement, drive, and / or happiness, pay attention to what you are doing in that moment. What are you gravitating towards in this moment? Even if the activities are purely for comfort, there is wisdom if you're aware of why you find them comforting. Now is the time to listen to that, "nagging idea," the urge to create, that dream that excites you but you haven't had the time to entertain. Now is the time to discover more about you, but it starts with awareness.
When the hustle is forced to die down and we take time to reflect, create, or contemplate, our awareness begins to expand and develop. This critical soft skill is actually a gateway skill to connecting us to our purpose. By stepping into awareness we can discover our core values as well as our authenticity, paving the road to purpose, passion, and meaning.
Pay attention to what you are doing in this moment, or what you long to do in this moment. Take notes. This is your passion guiding you towards purpose and meaning, even in this dark and uncertain time.
Each day I wake and put my energy towards some aspect of soft skills development. I do this every day in some form or another because it excites me. I listen to my joy, excitement and energy while I do this work. I am not driven by profit, accolades, or fame. I enjoy expanding my knowledge of this work and sharing it with others. I enjoy this work because I feel a sense of connection to others through this work. I am excited by this work because I realize the crossroads on my life: puppetry, leadership, and soft skills have all come together into an opportunity I am uniquely qualified for. I am driven and inspired by this work. I have become aware, especially during this pandemic, that the work I'm inspired to do is my purpose.