“There are no mundane or menial jobs when your life’s compass is magnetized with a meaningful mission called a purpose – driven life.”
Only meaning extricates each man from mediocrity and propels him into excellence. So called “leaders” who do not bother to provide a sense of purpose to the work that they are directing, rob everyone around them of the very essence of their humanness.
In their book “Why America Doesn’t Work” Chuck Colson and Jack Eckerd recounted the horrific story of a group of Jewish prisoners during World War II who were forced into hard labour by their Nazi persecutors. The prisoners were forced to do loathsome work, made even more miserable by the knowledge that they were sent to the factory that was aiding the Nazi Army. “Yet month after month, the labourers survived on meagre food and disgusting work,” the book reports.
One night, the factory was destroyed in an air raid. What happened next is appalling but it provides a stark lesson in the destructive effects of aimlessness.
The next morning, the guards commanded the prisoners to shovel the debris into the carts and drag it back to the other end of the compound.
“They are going to make us rebuild the wretched place,” the prisoners thought.
The next day, they were ordered to move back the huge pile of debris again to the other end of the compound. It was no mistake. Day after day, the prisoners hauled the same mountain of rubble back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. After several weeks of this meaningless drudgery, an old man began sobbing uncontrollably and was led away by the guards. Another screamed until his captors beat him into silence. A young man, who had survived 3 years of the vile labour, darted away from the group and raced towards the electric fence. “Halt!” the guards shouted. But it was too late. There was a blinding flash…
The authors went on to describe how, as the meaningless work dragged inexorably on , more and more prisoners went mad , many of them following the first prisoner’s example and hurling themselves to their deaths. This hideous experiment had actually been ordered by the commander who had wanted to see how human beings would respond to living lives that were utterly devoid of purpose. The result was madness and death.
All of us are searching for meaning and purpose. Each of us is born with a ladder of potential in our hands to climb as high as possible. We spend our formative years looking to find the wall to rest our ladder against. We may well lie our personal ladder of meaning against the wall of pleasure, or prosperity or performance. Then, we spend our lives climbing the ladder of success, and at the end, we may discover we have laid it against the wrong wall.
The more meaning that we can inject into our lives and work, the more competitive and productive we and our companies will be. We all desire to make contributions to something that is larger than ourselves. We want to reflect a strong sense of contribution and purpose. A person who is tied into this kind of purpose-driven life can cope with change, conflict and even crisis far more easily than an individual who feels disconnected from any sense of higher purpose. When we have meaning and purpose in our lives, we experience contentment. We learn upfront why we are alive- we develop life skills that help us accomplish our goals. We organise our lives around that centre. We live in light of that central purpose.
The philosopher Seneca said, “If a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
If a person has no harbour, no sense of destiny over dreams, if there is no orientation towards mission and meaning, then that individual is left alone, anchorless in a sea of subjectivism. The winds and wave of change and crisis will lose this person to and fro like a chunk of driftwood.
Every man and woman alive is, either consciously or subconsciously searching for 3 things.
1. Faith to live by – Relationship to God
2. Goal to live for – Relationship to ourselves
3. Self to live well- Relationship to family and friends
Only purpose and meaning can provide all these. The common element that unites these three quests is “relationships” All of life revolves around the quality of our relationships. We should rest our personal ladder of purpose against the wall of “people”, and not prestige or power.
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