As a millennial trying to successfully adult, I find my social media pages are filled with inspiring articles to encourage and question me about whether I am in fact “living” and “finding happiness.” I feel that my generation is determined to make sure nothing escapes us, ensuring we embrace and seek out adventures and push limits that are far beyond our comfort zones. Often these actions are portrayed through traveling, skydiving, swimming with dolphins, hiking the great mountain ranges around the world and other heart-beating moments to ensure we are doing exactly that: finding happiness and most importantly, LIVING! What a wonderful time to be alive!
I am always so inspired by these articles that challenge me to start pushing again to actively seek my happiness and to encourage my family to find theirs. When I feel an existential crisis emerging (which happens more often than you would think) I look one of these articles up or better yet, a podcast or a Ted Talk. On one particular day, I found Emily Esfahani Smith’s Ted Talk, “There’s more to life than being happy.” Emily provides this definition for happiness, “a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment.” She explains that through her desire to understand happiness and success or the sense of achievement, she participated in research and found that meaning was, in fact, more consistent and longer lasting and established the ability to be content more than that of happiness. Emily quoted Martin Seligman’s definition for meaning, “belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you.” Emily goes on to say that meaning comes from belonging, which stems from love for self and others. With meaning, we gain a sense of purpose. Purpose is found when using your strengths to serve others. Once this is done, we feel like we are contributing, needed and doing something worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast and would strongly recommend it if you are looking to challenge your thinking. One of the points that was most impactful to my thinking, is that storytelling is a fundamental part of meaning. We, as the storytellers, create and recreate the narrative of our lives. This then establishes hope and the idea that it is never too late to reweave your story forming meaning in your life.
So, back to my commonly occurring existential crisis, maybe this whole time I have been trying to define living and happiness on fleeting selfish moments. Perhaps it’s time I start reweaving my narrative, creating purpose and belonging through acts that inevitably are for others but also selfishly to create a sense of meaning within my life. If you are like me, you are asking right about now, so what does this look like practically? Thankfully this is pretty easy and convenient to do in society these days. Even though we live in times where there are extremes all around us, be it from war, weather or hate speech, we also live in a time where social trends such as #GivingTuesday and #MeToo, bring awareness and freedom. Where hundreds of thousands have held hands and marched peacefully in different places around the world for human rights for women, gay marriage, refugees or against our politicians who are failing the very people they said they would serve, this is a time of unity – What a wonderful time to be alive!
In this beautiful country we get to call home, there are over 200 000 registered non-profit organisations who are fighting to make some part of the world a better place. I consider myself really blessed to work at an organisation where every day I get to be a part of that fight! Where we as a society can go to find meaning, purpose, and belonging. There are some fabulous sites that can assist you in financially supporting some of these organisations – GivenGain is just one of many. And NGOs need this, trust me, I know – every cent helps!
If you have some items or skills you want to give or provide for organisations, there are sites like forgood where you present your “gift” and beneficiaries can motivate why they need your skill or items. Non-profits also love to have volunteers assist with projects that they do not have the manpower or potentially, skillset to work on. And then there are other opportunities you can participate in – The Santa Shoebox initiative, your local township schools, the person begging at that robot you pass every day, that car guard who needs an umbrella, the security guard at your office building who needs a storybook for his eleven year old daughter, the R5 donation to Beautiful Gate when buying off Takealot. Getting a coffee at Social Drinks next time you’re in the Cape Town CBD. The list of possibilities are endless. May we find our heart beating moments through selfishly finding purpose and meaning in selfless ways. What a wonderful time to be alive!