The day after my husband was hospitalized for COVID-19, I sat down in my favorite chair, got out my journal and started writing everything I was feeling. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Uncertain.
After a while, I paused, took a sip of coffee and then jotted down this question:
How can I use this experience for good?
Then I wrote some more.
By the time I finished, my coffee was cold but my heart was full. I felt on purpose, powerful and deeply grounded to my innate capacity for life. Whatever the days ahead would hold, I could handle them.
That was two months ago.
I’m very grateful to report that my husband is now home and back to full health. And while we are still in the midst of this pandemic which turned all our plans on their head, I’ve never felt more purposeful.
The time pouring into my journal made me crystal clear about two things. First, that when our future is mired with uncertainty, that we must look within for the certainty we seek. Second, that when the chips are down, we must reconnect to a purpose that transcends the outer conditions of our lives.
Each and every one of us are here for a purpose. As I wrote in my book You’ve Got This!, we are each endowed with a unique combination of gifts and talents, strengths and skills, personality and experiences we can draw on not just to elevate our own lives, but to lift the lives of others.
Sure, a key source of my income—speaking at conferences and facilitating leadership gatherings—has come to a grinding halt. For now. But that doesn’t stop me from working on purpose. It just means I can’t do it the same way. For now. Or make the same income. For now.
Likewise for you. Maybe your business has been hit hard by this crisis. Maybe you’ve lost your job. Or maybe you just can’t do what you love to do the way you’d like do it. I get it. But your purpose is never determined by other people or external circumstances. It is determined only by you.
And the best thing about living on purpose? It unlocks potential lying dormant with you, empowering you to do things you’d never think to do or be brave enough to do if you stayed focused only on what you can’t do or don’t want.
Albert Einstein once advised that we should not aim to be a person of success but a person of value. So do yourself a favor and use this forced pause on your life to rethink how you’re “doing life” and to reset your sights on a future that aligns to your vision.
To use this pandemic to “get on purpose,” I encourage you to connect your own pen to paper (ideally in a journal) and let the words flow as you reflect on your answers to these questions:
- Who do I want to be for other people during this challenging time?
Write down the virtues you want to embody and values you want your life to stand for. For example, optimism, calm, hope, kindness, generosity, faith, compassion, courage, resilience, grace, creativity, community, service, leadership, truth.
- How can I use my talents and resources to be of greatest value to others?
- One year from now, when I look back on this time, what do I want to feel most proud about?
- What would I do today if I truly trusted that I’m here to serve a nobler purpose than myself?
- What aspiration or idea keeps tugging at my heart that would expand and inspire my future?
- Where am I letting fear of being inadequate keep me from pursuing that vision?
- Who will be worse off if I don’t commit to a purpose that is greater than my pride; a mission greater than my fear?
- What would I do in the next 24 hours if I chose to get on purpose?
- How will I feel about myself a year from now if I do that every day in between?
- Who can I enlist to support me in living my purpose more bravely, more consistently?
Breakdowns precede breakthroughs. Sometimes it takes a breakdown of the highest global magnitude to compel us to examine our lives more holistically, to confront the stories we’ve spun more honestly and to reimagine our future more bravely.
We may not enjoy having our lives so royally disrupted, but to paraphrase Rainer Maria Rilke, let us not squander this hour of pain, rather let us accept the quiet invitation it holds for transformation at the deepest level—individually and collectively.
Just imagine the world we would live in if we all woke up each day intent on serving the world as best we could. Of course, you cannot change others, but you can do your part by using this crisis as catalyst to live a better life, to create a better world and to honor the many lives that have been claimed by this virus.
Getting on purpose has galvanized my courage in the midst of this crisis. I hope it will do the same for you.
Read next: Finding Courage Amid Uncertainty
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Best-selling author and mother of four, Margie Warrell is on a mission to embolden people to live and lead more bravely. Margie’s gained hard-won wisdom on building courage since her childhood in rural Australia. Her insights have also been shaped by her work with trailblazing leaders from Richard Branson to Bill Marriott and organizations from NASA to Google. Founder of Global Courage, host of the Live Brave podcast and advisory board member of Forbes Business School, Margie’s just released her fifth book You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself. She’d love to support you at www.margiewarrell.com .