If this is the world…what sort of mark do I want to leave on it?

Maybe you’ve been on furlough leave for several weeks; on the bench as some companies call it. You could be one of many on furlough in your organisation, perhaps the whole team is, but it’s a challenge not to let that little mouse of doubt gnaw away, whether based on fact or not. It is easy to think, maybe I am not that important to what the company is trying to do?

So instead of staying small and trying to measure our value to the company – the slippery slope away from a grounded sense of wellbeing – we can reminded ourselves who we truly are. Our purpose in this world.

This leads us to the big question: If this is the world, what kind of mark do I want to leave on it?”

In some ways, this is made all the more easy because of the present state of things. What is normal right now? On furlough or in work, lots of us are considering what we want to put back into this life going forward, thinking about our families, our communities, our countries and our world, wondering how it will be in one week’s, one month’s, five years’ and 20 years‘ time.

Thoughts swirl about our minds. In our homes, how do we want to spend family time, what will we use our money to buy, what types of things will we eat? In our communities, what events will we attend, what groups will we support, who will we help? In our countries, which leaders will we vote for, what causes and institutions will we back such as schools and hospitals? What will we do with our life?

 Whilst these are all worthwhile to consider, they lead us to make a fundamental mistake.

In answering the big question “If this is the world, what kind of mark do I want to leave on it?” we nearly all jump to asking “So what do I want to do in this world?” But doing is not our purpose – knowing what I want to do only tells me the how of my future life!

Whereas my purpose gets the very essence of who I am, my sealed orders, the use of my unique gifts. It’s a much harder question to answer and so easy to lose sight of in the current environment.

One really simple way to link back to your real purpose is to go to the library.

 Of course, in times of lockdown and social distancing, I am not suggesting you actually get in your car and bang on the doors to the neighbourhood library (nor even walk there). More that you open the library of your mind. Think back to the pivotal books you’ve read or the transformative ideas you found in books. That’s because research shows that reading connects us across time and place, linking us to our purpose.

When I went to the library, I got a sudden flash of a book I read in my late teens. The book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, is the story of the seagull who challenges the conformity, limitations and materialism of seagull life, who learns to soar and dive above the clouds, realising that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Gull. His journey challenges him to learn to forgive, to love and be true to himself; only then can he pass on his wisdom to other birds in the flock, helping them to thrive.

So go to the library – remind yourself of books that matter to you – they can help you see what matters to you in life, your purpose.

Remember that your job is not your purpose in life. It’s simply one channel in which to play out your purpose, your essence, your unique gifts. A colleague once held a mirror up to me, reflecting back the times I had been bold enough to challenge the conformity. It reminded me of Jonathan Livingston seagull soaring in the blue sky of opportunity, and helped me realise that my purpose was to walk alongside people, opening doors, so that they could grow into themselves.

You can do that just as easily on the bench, on furlough, as you do in your job .

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