Finding Purpose during Furlough

This week we have a beautiful guest post from someone Bird has worked with to support a number of the staff in her organisation. As a people-first, task second advocate, Sarah Spencer is passionate about supporting people’s personal development, wellbeing and happiness. Working in the world of leadership & learning development, she is always looking for ways for people to strengthen connections with themselves and others through the power of open, honest & vulnerable conversations.

So, over to Sarah, Leadership and Learning Manager at WaterAid.

‘How would you feel about going on furlough?’ This was the question asked of me a few weeks back. I faltered a bit and then heard myself saying that I would do it if the organisation needed me to. This was true, but behind my words was a nagging voice asking me ‘but what will you do with your time?’ I felt an immediate need to be productive in some other way if I wasn’t going to be working.

Over the next few days I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and created endless lists in my mind of all the things I was going to achieve whilst on furlough. I was even going to learn the piano and the fact that I didn’t have a piano was not going to get in my way! It left me feeling really discombobulated. I found myself getting anxious and feeling low. And then it occurred to me that I hadn’t felt like this for a couple of years, not since I’d had to face up to my life taking a different course than the one I always imagined. I’d been forced then to abruptly confront my purpose in life for the first time ever. And that’s when I heard the question shift in my head from ‘what will you do?’ to ‘who are you?’.

Ahh, here I was again. Furlough had thrown me into a familiar tailspin of anxiety until I could reconnect with what I knew my purpose to be; helping people with their wellbeing and finding their happy. A wave of relief rushed over me in that moment. I wasn’t losing my sense of purpose, I just needed to reconnect with it and find new ways of living it that wasn’t through my job right now.

How many times in our lives do we get caught up in life and forget why we’re doing something? Then change comes and we feel thrown out to sea, lost until we can find the steadying compass of our purpose or Ikigai, the Japanese concept meaning ‘our reason for being’. I love this concept, especially because it underlines our reason for being rather than what we feel we should be doing (don’t even get me started on the damaging power of ‘should’!). We are human beings after all, not human doings.

So, one week in to furlough and what have I done? Well, I’ve let go of all those endless lists and focused in on the things that align with my purpose. Part of that, I’ve realised, is taking some time out for myself.  Some days I don’t do anything in particular at all, and that feels OK. The urgent need to be productive has been replaced with a calmer, reassuring sense that I know who I am and what I contribute which has led to new opportunities to live out my purpose. I’m grateful for the nudge back towards my purpose that furlough has given me and curious about where it will take me next!’

With love as always, Hannah and Team Bird

PS. If you would like to attend a Building Personal Resilience in Uncertain Times webinar our next one is on 27th May, click here to sign up.

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

1 Comment
  • Kaat Vannieuwenborgh
    Posted at 12:45h, 20 May

    Thank you Sarah for sharing your story with authenticity and vulnerability. It gave me an opportunity again to reflect and recognise the importance of our purpose, our Ikigai, the why we are here. Thank you Hannah and Bird Team for posting this.

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