Have you ever been faced with problem that seemed far too overwhelming to solve?
When Jadav Payeng was 16, he found a large number of snakes that had died due to extreme heat. Floods had washed them up on a sandbar near his home in the Jorhart District in India.
At the time, powerful waters from the Brahmaputra River were eroding vast parts of the land, stripping the area of it's vegetation. He worried that if nothing were done, humans would eventually suffer the same fate as the snakes. He began a personal journey that has since inspired the world.
Jadav started taking cuttings from a tree on his property in 1979. He took a boat across the river, and then walked 2 hours to plant trees on the empty Majuli Island. With a clear sense of purpose and persistence, he has continued doing so every day for over forty years.
Over time, Jadev took barren land and turned it into a lush green forest habituating hundreds of species all by himself. The forest is now estimated to cover 1300 acres of land, which is bigger than New York’s Central Park. It is now a home for many animals and creatures such as Bengal Tigers, White Rhinos, Elephants, and hundreds of deer, rabbits and monkeys.
Self-actualizing people are, without one single exception, involved in a cause outside themselves. They are devoted, working at something which is very precious to them, something which fate has called them to and which they love. - Abraham Maslow
On World Earth Day in 2010, he was named ‘The Forest Man’ by the Government of India, and named Highest Civilian for his acts of heroism. Jadav plans to write a children's book and has recently collaborated on environmental projects aiming to plant 7 million trees in Mexico starting in 2021.
His purpose is to inspire others about climate change and the fragility of nature. He remains committed to growing and protecting the forest he built on Majuli Island.
Having A Purpose Makes Remarkable Acts of Persistence Possible
Jadev's story is remarkable for the persistence he displayed in going to such lengths on a daily basis to achieve what he has.
But where does such purpose and persistence come from?
Too often, we don't allow ourselves to fully experience our pain. When we fail to experience our pain, we disconnect from our emotions. This leaves us feeling unsafe, disconnected and lacking confidence in our ability to manage and navigate future problems. We are left feeling insecure, vulnerable and disempowered.
Jadev allowed himself to be moved by the sight of the dead snakes. He thought about the cause, and the long-term implications, for animals and people. He wasn't inspired, or motivated. He was moved.
Not everyone will be moved to build a forest. But if we take the time to listen to and fully experience what brings us joy and what causes us pain, and the principles we stand for, we will be far more likely to find what gives us purpose. You will know what those activities are, because they won't feel like work.
How Purpose Wellbeing Improves Mental health
When you find what gives you purpose you will find incredible reserves of energy and motivation, just like Jadev.
When we don't activities in life that give us purpose, we can feel disempowered about our lives and our circumstances, resulting in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Be sure to find and spend time doing activities that give you purpose. They will give you something meaningful to work toward, and something valuable to focus on. They will also give you a tangible accomplishments you can feel proud of.
Doing something purposeful, whether for yourself, for others or the planet, can change your mood, and in time your brain, resulting in improved mental health.
This week, think of something that really matters to you. You don't need to build a forest. But think of ways that you can start planting the seeds of whatever might be important you want to work toward.
Take good care,
Your wellbeing matters. Take five minutes to learn if you are suffering, surviving or thriving in five essential areas of life and what you can do to improve your wellbeing. Try it now.
About the Author:
Derrick McEachern is a Registered Counselling Therapist (RCT) in Nova Scotia, and a Canadian Certified Counsellor. He specializes in providing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in the areas of addiction, healthy relationships, grief and loss, and career and life transitions. He offers workshops and webinars and consults with businesses on ways to improve employee wellbeing and mental health.