Living With Purpose During A Pandemic
Life is still very different in so many ways. The virus has not gone away. Many kids are not back in school and are doing distance learning. It has taken its toll on marriages, families, mental health, and businesses.
Recently, Arthur Brooks wrote an article in The Atlantic where he distinguishes between happiness and success and warns about what psychologists refer to as life’s “hedonic treadmill,” where satisfaction is never attained as human beings constantly race towards the next goal. Brooks says, “American culture valorizes overwork, which makes it easy to slip into a mindset that can breed success addiction.” Brooks then makes three basic claims.
First, you will not find true happiness on the hedonic treadmill of your professional life. Second, you should make amends for any relationships you have compromised in the name of success. Third, learn the proper metrics for measuring your life, specifically faith, family, and friendship.
Some have used this pandemic as a time to slow down and re-prioritize while others have thrown themselves into a paranoid state of workaholism, which is a classic American form of addiction. Many remain busy but lack a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. So that begs the question, “What does it mean to live life with meaning and priorities in place?”
John Maxwell gives a three-fold definition of success. First, know your purpose. Second, grow to your maximum potential. Third, sow seeds that benefit others. Without a sense of purpose, meaninglessness and emptiness pervade. Addiction, whatever it is, quickly fills the void. I have always wrestled with the question, “what motivates people?” What drives us? What gives us meaning? Until we can answer that question, we are simply going through the motions, staying busy, working ourselves into the ground, and life becomes a burden.
• Some think the purpose of life is to simply go and make lots of money.
• Some think the purpose of life is to impress as many people as you can.
• Some think the purpose of life is to make as many connections as you can.
• Some think the purpose of life is to give your children what you didn’t have.
Right now, many are simply keeping their head above water, working, and homeschooling children. It’s an unprecedented amount of stress. We all need to wrestle with the deeper Socratic question of why we are here are what we are supposed to be doing.
We are here to love others and be loved in return. We are here to worship God and not false idols – of which there are many. We are here to support each other through challenging times, like the one we are currently in. We are here to cultivate relationships based on authenticity, vulnerability, and trust. We are here to lift each other up when life beats us down. We are here to look out for those who have little or nothing, to show compassion and not be mean spirited. We are here to practice forgiveness and grace.
As this pandemic presses on, there are many who feel hopeless and lost. Even in the midst of this, we need to move beyond ourselves, connect, and address the needs of others. Until we learn how to do this, meaningless, emptiness, and addictions will carry the day.
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