Taking risks and pursuing a life of meaning

When people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth. But meaning isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s an approach to life — a mind-set“. This quote comes from an article that was published in New York magazine last year. It struck a chord with me and also reminded me of my good friend, Rachel, who unrelentingly pursues meaning in all aspects of her life. Her journey, which I jokingly call eat, pray love is just fascinating. She kindly agreed to share her story and I am absolutely thrilled to feature MY VERY FIRST GUEST BLOGGER. Hope she inspires you the way she inspires me.

Taking risks and pursuing a life of meaning – A guest blog by Rachel

I am a 35 year old Kenyan woman. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks to my parents, I was exposed to many things growing up. We were gratefully able to travel domestically and internationally from a young age. Still, I was determined early on to find deeper meanings to life… to find a true sense of belonging and purpose in my life, in this world. At age 15, I knew that in order to have a real chance at ‘figuring things out for myself’, I needed to leave Kenya. Seemingly against all rational odds at that time, my beloved parents found the courage to let me go. So, off I went to boarding school in England to finish the last 2 years of secondary school. I continued my education in England, graduating with a Bachelors degree in Economics and Law. After my second year of university, I decided to take a year out… I simply was not ready to graduate the following year…and knew my time would be better spent elsewhere! I ended up living and working in Brazil. A phenomenal experience!

“Most of us, consciously or not, choose the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of meaning. But should happiness really be the only goal that motivates us?”

Once I graduated, I did an internship with an iconic global FMCG company and eventually ended up working in their Legal Department. A new turning point occurred… I made the decision to move back to Kenya. Of course 99% of people in my world thought I was truly crazy to leave such a cushy corporate job in England… work permit, residence permit etc! But… thankfully, my hard head and sheer will-power and determination gave me the courage and confidence to honour my truth. In large part, thanks to the support of my boss at the time, I was able to continue working for the same company when I moved back to Nairobi. I did so for about a year and a half. That is when my same instinctual self knew that it was time to get on with my longstanding vision of being a self-employed entrepreneur. So, at age of 25, I ‘retired’ from the corporate world. My first business was a restaurant. What an intense experience and learning curve that was!!! I ended up selling it after 3 years… primarily because at the time, I needed another hiatus from Kenya. Ended up travelling through Europe by train for 3 months!

“The happy life is defined by seeking pleasure and enjoyment, whereas the meaningful life is bigger. The defining features of a meaningful life are connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, which could be your family, your work, nature, or God.” 

The most challenging time of my adult life was when I returned to Kenya after my European hiatus. It was the first time that I truly had no clarity…about anything! In general, I “make a move” when I have clarity – from a deep instinctual knowing. That has come by cultivating and nurturing my relationship with my Maker! When I have that, I have the courage and confidence to step out… To take GIANT leaps of faith. That is what allows me to drown out all the “naysayers” and stay focused on honouring whatever it is that I know to be true to me. The hardest times in my life have been a direct result of not having that sense of clarity. As much as I’m instinctual, I am also very rational and analytical. Lists are a constant companion! So while I knew I was blessed to have had many options available to me… I could not choose a single avenue from that place of knowing that I had relied on before to confidently proceed! All I truly knew was that I needed to remain in Nairobi until further notice… I also knew that I was not willing to return to the corporate world or to set up an entirely new business with employees. That would require commitment that I was unable and unwilling to give of myself at that time. So… I ended up doing a series of short term random things.. exporting Kenyan handicrafts, consulting and property sales. Then I took my next trip to New Zealand!

“When people say their lives are meaningful, in other words, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.”

New Zealand was PHENOMENAL! Fiji became my next destination. Turns out… Fiji had its own plans for me! I met my husband! Wait.. there’s more: we are expecting our first child together. We are living and loving in a truly magical place known as “the hidden paradise of Fiji”. There are a lot of diverse business opportunities in Fiji – including agriculture, exports of made in Fiji natural products, up-skilling i.e. training & development crafts people. In the years to come, those will be areas that we plan to actively invest in. Despite a drastic difference in population, there are so many similarities & opportunities between Kenya & Fiji. We coined the term: “KenJians” 😉 For now though… as we expand our family, my primary focus is now on my family. Grateful & excited to discover & experience motherhood! Which – courtesy of a medical earlier this year – I had been told was a remote possibility! Voila! #MiracleBaby

“Our goal this coming year shouldn’t just be happiness. Our goal should be meaningfulness. Instead of picking projects, hobbies, and relationships based on how happy they will make us, let’s focus on those things that make our lives more significant and worthwhile. If happiness ensues, great. But if it doesn’t, we can still take comfort in knowing that our lives matter and are contributing to the world in some way.” 

My guiding principles… God is LOVE. LOVE is everything. Only the truth shall set you free. To thine own self, be true. What I know now… Life is always FOR you! So, trust the process. Trust yourself. You got this! You do! You are the only you there ever has been, is and will be! Soooo… just do you! Thank you Afrooptimist, for graciously giving me the opportunity to share a small part of me. Here’s hoping it positively impacts someone…somewhere…someday! Baraka tele!

All the quotations are sourced from this article http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/12/in-2017-pursue-meaning-instead-of-happiness.html written by Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer Aaker.

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