Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Living a life of purpose

It’s Easter weekend, and many Christians are commemorating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

One of the things that always struck me about how the event is told in the Gospels, is how reluctant Jesus was at being crucified: “Please, Father, take this cup from me”. Jesus wasn’t that excited about being killed, and I wonder if he was convinced he would be resurrected from death. His fear tells me he might not have been. To me, this is the most poignant example of Jesus choosing a purposeful life over a happy life.

Martin Seligman describes in “Authentic Happiness” a happy life as a life where you cultivate positive emotions about the past, present, and future. An engaging life is a life where you use your core strengths and virtues to achieve a sense of flow, being fully engaged with what you’re doing. The purposeful life is a life where you use your core strengths and virtues to contribute to a goal that is larger than you, even if it comes at personal cost. It is the life where you see the oneness in the fragmentation, and your motivation follows meaning.

History is full of examples of people willing to make personal sacrifices for a higher purpose. Martin Luther King and Ghandi are well-known, my grandfather and millions of others less well-known.

Jesus inspires me to live a life of purpose, pledging allegiance to love, care, and inclusion of the outcasts. Up till now I have enjoyed a comfortable life, being married and enjoying my beautiful home and loving friends. I have a happy life, an engaging life. I also believe my life has meaning: I have a strong sense of purpose in the work I do.

And yet. I wonder if I have the guts to sacrifice my comfort, when circumstances call me to stand up for what I believe is true. I am scared that I won’t be willing to follow Jesus’ example, when it comes at an expense to me. I ask myself ‘Do I need to?’, hoping the answer will be ‘no, sweetie pie, go back to sleep’.

When you ask yourself these questions, what comes up for you? I would love to read your response.

Which three words do you want to be known for?

“Which three words do you want to be known for?”

“Empathic. Compassionate. Committed.”

“Tell me about committed. What does that mean to you?”

That I care about relationships. That I try to understand the needs in people’s behavior. That I never give up on relationships.  That I search for ways to make it work. That I listen to feedback to learn how I can show up better next time.”

“Why is that important to you?”

hqdefaultI feel startled. I thought I had to avoid the ‘why’ question. I have no clue why that is important to me. For me, it has always seemed a given, a natural tendency to care about relationships.

Kelley Russell-DuVarney is patiently waiting. She looks around the room filled with 30 women at the Austin Women’s Network meeting. “Tell me, why is that important to you?”

“I don’t know. I just care about my family and friends. My clients. I want to contribute to their happiness. I don’t like to see them suffer.”

Then I stop. I feel tears well up.

“You know, I am born and raised in the Netherlands. My father lived through the second World War as a young child. I still see him suffering from the trauma he endured during the war. I don’t want anyone to suffer like that. I want to help prevent something like that from ever happening again. I want to support people to listen to each other, understand each other to care for each other.”

That’s all I can manage to say without breaking into tears. The room is quiet. Kelley is quiet. She gives me space to connect to my deepest motivation, the drive behind my work.

I want to ensure that we resolve our differences peacefully. I want to protect people by helping them with nonviolent, compassionate ways to resolve conflict. That is my mission in life.

It was empowering to connect to the power of my true motivation.  The tears were not an expression of sadness, they were a sign of profound self-connection.

You want help to connect to your true motivation? Contact me, 512-589-0482 for a free, discovery session.

Thank you, David Nayer, for editing this post during your travels. I am inspired by your shaping of words, the clarity of meaning and focus you bring to my writing, and your dedication to contribute!