How Nelson Mandela helped me to realise my purpose

I have to say, 2013 has truly been a year of reflection and personal growth. As you may know, about a quarter of the way through the year, I had lost inspiration for my business, specifically the services I was offering and the people I was offering my services to. I made the choice to take a few months out to reconnect with things that I knew inspired me. In this time, I also spent 10 days in Singapore and Bali. It was exactly what was needed. I reconnected with my creative side and felt inspired again. I was inspired about my business and life in general. I revised my services, became more specific about the people I wanted to help rebranded my book and websites and delivered a workshop.

The desire for a more purposeful life

In more recent months, I have been thinking more and more about the “bigger picture” and my greater “calling” in life – some would call it my life’s purpose I suppose. I had a conversation with 2 friends who are at similar stages in their coaching businesses to me and they too were having the same feeling. They too had been thinking more about the bigger purpose in life. Yes we were clear about what we were good at, yes we were clear about the people we wanted to work with but what was the bigger overall purpose that was going to keep us going when business and life got challenging? What was going to give our lives meaning?

The benefits of having friends that are also coaches is that a conversation can quickly turn into an unofficial coaching session and often you end the call with a great sense of clarity, focus and direction, not to mention energy and optimism.

Nelson MandelaTwo days after speaking with my 2 friends Kate and Karen, late on Thursday evening I heard the news that the legend that is Nelson Mandela had passed away. I know he was 95 and I know that he has had ill health for a long time now but I was still shocked. I also felt a great sadness that I hadn’t expected to. My heart felt heavy and listening to everything that was being said about him and seeing all his photos really impressed upon me the impact this man had, on not just a nation, but the entire world.

When listening to the details of his life, it dawned on me that I was actually 14 years old before black people in South Africa were given equal rights. I realised that Nelson Mandela had spent almost my entire lifetime in a tiny prison cell just for standing up for what he believed in. He wasn’t permitted to see his children for 10 years and was prohibited from attending the funerals of his mother and son. Can you imagine the pain and anguish? I felt very tearful. I also felt great admiration and gratitude. This man sacrificed his liberty and freedom for the rights of his people. He sacrificed everything any human being values to ensure every person in his country was treated equally.

Of everything that was being said about him and all the quotes of things he had said, the words that struck me most, were the words his spoke at his court case:

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The conviction and commitment this man had to his vision was astounding. Nelson Mandela was absolutely clear about his purpose and he was wholly devoted to it. I was, and still am, so moved and totally in awe of all he stood for.

What are you living for?

My purpose had already started stirring in me and being reminded of Nelson Mandela’s story has created a whirlwind. It quickly became clear to me I have always known what “bigger cause” really touches, moves and inspires me. Now I look back at things that I have started and then not continued with because I could not see a way forward, a way to make it work or a way I would have enough time, energy and money to live a quality, balanced life and really make a difference.

I now realise that there is no set timeline for a vision other than the one you set out in your own mind. There are also no limits on your vision other than those you set yourself.

When you have a purpose that is bigger than you, you are not necessarily the person who sees it through to completion. None of us have the key to eternal life as yet, therefore it is more likely than not that you will not see your vision through to the end. In fact, the whole idea of a legacy is that it never ends, it lives on forever.

“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ~ Helen Keller

Take Nelson Mandela who was in prison for 27 years of the ANC’s fight for freedom, justice and equality. Yes he still had a strong influence, but it was also the work of many others who were “free” that brought about the changes in South Africa. If you look at South Africa today, there is still so much to be done, however Nelson Mandela’s vision was the catalyst for those changes. Simply take a look at all of the news headlines, newspapers and social media since his death and his legacy is clear to see. It was once illegal in South Africa to quote Nelson Mandela’s name, now with his passing most of the world is quoting not only his name, but also his words.

Sometimes your purpose is to be a catalyst, get things started, plant a seed or to generate ideas. Sometimes your purpose is to support someone else who has already started something life changing or sometimes your purpose is in fact to be the spokesperson and to be at the front leading.

Lessons learned from a legend

I have learnt not to be disheartened if I cannot see immediately how my vision will become a reality or if it takes my entire lifetime to make it happen. As the famous quote goes, it is the journey, not the destination and as long as I am living my purpose I am sure to help people along the way.

I will not share my long term vision with you just yet as I am still getting clear on it. What I will share with you however is what the passing of Nelson Mandela has now inspired me to do.

menaturalhairIn all honesty, until this point I have been holding back because I have been scared. Scared of what people will think or will say. My entire life I have hated standing out. When I was a teenager I had my hair chemically straightened and for years I always wore it back in a pony tail because I hated the attention it created when I wore it out as it was considered to be quite long. More recently, I have stopped wearing my hair straight and I have now been having it naturally curly. It took me months to build up the courage to wear it out of a pony tail, again because I was dreading the attention it would attract. To some this will sound ridiculous, but to me it was a big deal. So with my writing and the products and services I have offered up to this point have always been “safe”, vanilla even, hoping not to stand out whilst trying to please everyone.

What Nelson Mandela has taught me is that to make a difference you have to have a voice and having a voice means you have to stand out from the crowd. I’ve always known that I needed to step out of the crowd but never really had the courage to do it completely. Most people that know me would say I’m extremely confident but just like every other person in the world I have my insecurities. This year however I can honestly say that have grown tremendously and I am now embracing my perfect imperfections and learning to accept and love myself wholly and completely.

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” ~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I want to work with other women so that you too can experience the freedom of accepting and loving yourself and really embracing and celebrating all that you are. I want to give women the courage to have a voice and to walk confidently in their own greatness.

We are bombarded of images of how we should be and messages of who we should be and how we should behave.

We have a collection of masks we wear for different scenarios and environments – from the boardroom, to the ballroom (club,bar,coffee shop) to the bedroom. We wear shoes that hurt and damage our feet and we wear an array of beauty products (often fake) to look the way the media says we should which ultimately in years to come makes us look worse than the very thing we were trying to avoid – with tired, dull, damaged skin.

We have to compete in all areas of our lives and no matter how hard we try, our efforts are never quite good enough. We’re too passive, too aggressive, too sexual, too insecure, too maternal, too driven. ENOUGH! We are women, we are perfectly imperfect and we are wonderful!

Let’s break free of the shackles of what a woman should be and just be who we are! 

I hope you will join me on my journey to empower myself and other women everywhere to own their greatness. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have it all figured out, and I am sure I never will. I am not here to judge anyone. I just know from personal experience how frustrating, exhausting and sometimes lonely it can be when you spend most of your time and energy focusing on who you should be and trying to “fit in” rather than stand out. Now that I am a little way along my own journey of self discovery and self  love, I would like to inspire other women to take the brave step and start their own journeys.

I will leave you with the passage that always inspires me to be courageous and step out of my comfort zone. It is from “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson which is also commonly attributed to Nelson Mandela.


Until next time,

Be fearless, be authentic, be unapologetic! 


The Career Supernova

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