How to be an Engaged Citizen and Live a Purpose-Driven Life
Advocacy, community engagement, civic leadership, and wellness comprise my core values as well as my areas of professional focus. I have worked in both public and private sectors to promote the yogic ideals of service and engagement in everyday life. These ideals are part of my career as a Community Relations Specialist and by way of my service as a former Santa Monica City Commissioner on the Status of Women & Girls. Throughout, I have engaged in self-inquiry and along the way have identified five steps for creating a purpose-driven life.
Many of us hear the call to contribute to the collective well-being and address societal challenges. We can show up with our passion, our ingenuity, and our work ethic to activate this purpose. Being of service and connecting with community are important remedies for our own potential feelings of isolation and helplessness. Empowering others is a gateway to empowering ourselves.
The following steps streamline our ability to channel our desires for engaging in seva, or selfless service, and to understand how to live lives full of presence and purpose.
This is crucial to building your own courage, confidence, and self esteem. Recognize your personal values and worth when giving back. Your personal story will be an asset to others. In this process, forgive yourself for any decisions that have negatively impacted you or someone you care about. Take ownership of your choices, appreciate who you are and what you have now. Strengthening your foundation in this capacity gives you a place from which you can grow and expand as a humanitarian.
Cultivate the personal self-care resources necessary to be successful. Giving from an abundance of energy is crucial for your own well-being, as well as your longevity as an activist and an engaged citizen.
Some of the most important self-care practices are often the simplest. Consider what replenishes and restores you. This can include yogic practices such as meditation and asana, and nourishing your body with healthy foods, smoothies and juices.
I have a regular practice that includes meditation, prayer, healthy eating, yoga, outdoor exercise, soulful reading, and surrounding myself with positive, optimistic people. Regular journaling helps me stay connected to personal voice and inner development. Writing is an excellent medium for spiritual therapy.
3. Taking Stock and Inventory
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks of the importance of svadhyaya–the practice of self-inquiry or self-study. When you seek to understand yourself and apply the resulting knowledge to a personal call to action, it supports your ability to be in alignment with your goals and actions.
Taking time to list your passions, skills, and talents will guide you to specific organizations in need of your presence. Ensuring your personal mission aligns with the organization’s will allow you to access points of mutual interest.
In this process, take notes. I found it helpful to journal about my character traits as well as skills that my professors, friends, family, colleagues, and former employers and employees considered valuable in me. I then coupled those traits with things that come naturally to me like marketing outreach, communication strategy, and public affairs.
Sit with a trusted friend or family member to support you and find someone who can hold space for vulnerability and support reflection. Do the same for them. Ask each other questions: “What do you see me doing?” or “What do you think I’m really great at?” or “How can I serve?”
Look at everything you have done. What have you studied? What is your vocation? List your hobbies. We don’t always recognize the complexity and value of life experience. For example, managing a household takes real skill. Go deeper and acknowledge all of it in your quest to create a purpose-driven life.
4. Identify Your Skills and Assets
What kinds of activities do you gravitate to or have a passion or love for, whether you are paid or not paid? What activities make you happy? Maybe you always have a pot of soup going. Perhaps you are knitting scarves in spare moments. You might be the neighborhood dog-walker or a 24/7 techie.
Ask yourself: How can I be of service in these areas? For example, if soup-making is top of the list and you know how to shop for healthy ingredients, and perhaps have a nutrition background, you may find a way to be of service through the culinary industry. Serving hot meals to the homeless or volunteering at a shelter.
5. Integrate and Take Action: Living a Purpose-Driven Life
When we’re sharing anything from the place of our skills and gifts, the seva becomes more successful. Focus on your niche and start networking. Reach out to volunteer coordinators of nonprofits. Ask friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors for referrals. Look for organizations and/or initiatives that feel like a match for your purpose and passion.
Check in with the strategic goals of the city or town in which you live. Call or email your appointed and elected officials; it is their job to hear your concerns and ideas about how to make a difference. You are the “voice” of the people. Your experience—no matter how big or small— serves the greater good. Activate by stepping out of your comfort zone and build new relationship based on common goals.
Remember that small actions can have powerful ripple effects. It is time to consider your piece in the part of the whole.
I write this in honor of my yoga lineage: Mother, Sue and Grandmother Padma. I love you!
Gauri Brienda-Ramnath is an entrepreneur who runs a boutique brand marketing consultancy. A former Santa Monica City Commissioner on the Status of Women & Girls, she remains engaged in a number of civic initiatives. Learn more at: gauribrienda.com