We’ve lied to our children.
It’s a beautiful lie because it’s one that we’ve told ourselves. All deception is built upon a partial truth. That’s what makes it so believable, so pervasive – and so dangerous.
We’ve told young people that they need to work hard at school, get accepted into university, study hard and get a job. Then life will make sense. This is the path to life. And I’ve watched countless students face overwhelming odds as the pioneers in their families to finally walk across the graduation stage and place their hands on the piece of paper that promises to be a key to a new life.
And of course, it is an important key to unlocking potential. But it is not the only key that they will need to navigate all that life will throw at them. So, imagine their silent shock and growing horror when they start their first job – and the salary barely covers their expenses. They don’t know how to work with others, they don’t have a vision for their careers and expect the organisation to feed them with the elixir of promised fulfilment.
Added to that, they have no clue about how to navigate big ticket expenses like buying their first car and deciding on whether to rent or purchase property. No one helped us with these important life choices and so we leave them to figure it out on their own.
We’re all so fixated and burned out in our own little lane of the rat race that we barely have the energy to look around us and see that young people are not coping with all the pressures of trying to keep up the illusion of success.
They are so fearful of failure because our culture worships success, as if it is a special island that only the perfect and dedicated can charter a private plane to. Success is seen as a destination, as a tick box of material possessions that will indicate once they’ve ‘arrived’ at the island.
Can we start to tell the truth?
My hope is that the collective calamity brought about by COVID-19 will give us the courage we need to remove our professional masks and help our children to see the human on the other side.
And yes, I say ‘our children’ because we all have a responsibility to support the ones who have just started out on this crazy road of life. Maybe if they hear the message that life is difficult and they have the means to overcome adversity, from more than one source, they will begin to believe it.
We need people who are not just yearning to live a life of purpose but who are willing to embrace the challenge of pursuing meaningful work. We need people to shift from being consumers to becoming producers. We need people to design solutions to the problems we have been waiting for others to solve for us.
Wholeness means to form a complete and harmonious whole. Work is just one part of the puzzle of the human condition. What would happen if we brought wholeness to work and helped people to build integrity in their relationships, which lies at the core of developing sound character. It is not what we do but who we become in the doing, that will fill our eulogies one day.
And if we are not just working to earn money but employing strategies to let money work for us while we give ourselves fully to the work that makes us come alive, then imagine! Imagine what we would tell our children before they can take their first steps?
Imagine if we tell them that they are valuable, powerful, worthy? And what if we keep repeating that message as if we believe it about ourselves too? Maybe then work will become an extension of who we are and not second hand descriptors of what we do.
The world is ripe for a wholeness revolution.
And I’m sounding the call.