This month brings an event that has been marked on the calendars of many Americans for four years. Whether you couldn’t wait to re-elect Donald Trump, or you have been counting the days until he is voted out of office, there is a particular energy in this election season that is different than perhaps any before it. Despite not yet knowing who has been nominated our next president, I know that there are millions of Americans who will be reeling in the aftermath. In an all too unwelcome flashback to 2016, America will surely find itself fiercely divided, again and still.
We will be monsooned with media coverage that’s crafted specifically to absorb us in our potential hour(s) of disorientation and grief. And some of us will very likely find ourselves questioning the judgment and integrity of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, public figures, our kids’ friends’ parents, teachers – frankly anyone, just like we did four years ago. A gallop poll that was conducted immediately following the 2016 election found that 77% of Americans viewed the country as “greatly divided when it comes to the most important values.” Talk about contentious Thanksgiving dinner conversation.
This data and history might leave us asking how we can show up in the intersecting spaces in our lives while carrying the weight of such mounting division.
While recent election history paints a grim picture for our country, I believe there is light in the proverbial darkness. In the wake of this election (this year, the past four years), whether we are celebrating or mourning, in the darkness of a country inevitably divided, there is a light from within – the bright and inextinguishable radiance of our daily purpose.
It’s an enigmatic concept, purpose. Who defines purpose? How do we know once we’ve achieved it? What happens if it changes?
While purpose is a subjective notion, it can be helpful to develop language around the possibilities it holds. In her blog post titled “Pressing on With Purpose,” Brené Brown crystallizes her own purpose in order to address critics of her outspoken political and social views:
I am here for my purpose. I’m not here to make people comfortable or to be liked. My purpose is to know and experience love. This means excavating the unsaid. In the world and in me. Knowing and experiencing love means calling shame, fear, dehumanization, and injustice by their birth name: Lovelessness. It means finding love in beauty, art, music, and nature. It means not turning away from pain or working pain out on other people. Knowing and experiencing love requires making connections between experiences and emotions that often feel a million miles apart. And, for me, love always requires living into courage and faith.”
While these sentiments are specific to Brown, her act of drawing from her purpose in the face of division is one that we can emulate in our own daily spaces. Even if our preferred candidate is or seems to be on the path to political victory, this election season has exposed issues greater than any one person in office. For some it may stir up profound and valid anxiousness about the state of our country and necessitate a time of grappling and grieving. And while we can hold all of these truths, we can simultaneously move forward in the truth that, whatever our mental state, we are, every one of us, filled with a purpose that presses on regardless of, and perhaps because of, the political environment of our nation.
In a continued effort to remain intact despite the volatility of our environments, particularly the environment of 2020, there is an opportunity to lean into our uncertainty and uncover daily purpose.
This will and should look different for all of us. The ability to live with purpose can often get wrapped up with our privilege and wealth. It shouldn’t. And we certainly should not be prescribing what others’ lived purpose should look like. Decide what it looks like for you, and only measure it against the impact it has on your mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged if, when seeking our purpose, we require that it be catalyzed by our job or community involvement. This is incredibly limiting, and risks disfiguring purpose into some sort of achievement-based competition. When we begin choosing daily to live purposefully as parents, partners, neighbors, employers, employees, strangers, and simply as individuals, the impact has the potential to transcend political differences and division, and to define how we show up regardless of external forces we cannot control.
Rather than laying out suggestions for how to achieve your daily purpose, I would encourage you to unpack how it is you define purpose. Ask yourself: “Who gave me this definition? Does that feel right to me? Can I have more than one purpose?” Once you begin to understand what this truth looks like for you, be intentional in moving forward with this awareness. Be mindful of negative self-talk, gently noting it when it happens and then pressing forward, giving yourself the grace to regress, to evolve, to change your mind.
Drawing again on the wisdom of the endlessly insightful Brené Brown, “sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” Show up and elect purpose, every damn day.
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Libby is an organizational development consultant focused on organizational culture, group facilitation, executive coaching, and leadership development. With a cross-disciplinary background rooted in psychology, team development, client engagement, organizational behavior, and social justice, Libby continues to pursue opportunities that challenge a status quo worldview in order to implement meaningful change in her life and the lives of others. Her passion for designing equitable, creative, and empowering organizations inspires her in all of the roles in her life, including her role as a wife and mother. Libby resides in Morristown, New Jersey with her husband, Tim, twin daughters, Willow and Everleigh, and their rescue dog, Dobby.