Have you ever watched a large ship weigh its anchor? It is fascinating to see and hear the massive links of chain screeching against the metal bow of the ship as the anchor is lowered or raised. If an anchor is placed properly on the bottom of the sea, it can hold a giant ship fast, even in rough seas. Just as ships need anchors to keep them from drifting away on the open seas, people need spiritual anchors in their lives if they are to remain steadfast.
By Cynthia C Hakutangwi
Suppose a beautiful sailing ship had been manufactured from the finest materials and had been reinforced and strengthened for the roughest seas. Suppose the anchor was of the finest craftsmanship. But, suppose, by some inadvertent error, the chain attached to the anchor was inferior and weak. Visualise what would happen the first time the anchor was lowered, or the first time a strong wave tried to push the anchored ship out to sea. If any link of the chain holding the anchor broke, the anchor would be left to rust on the bottom of the ocean floor and the ship would drift and perhaps be destroyed. Anchors are those things that make us feel grounded and settled. They can help us feel at home and connected with our inner self. Do you know where you are anchored? Is your anchor powerful enough to survive any storm of life?
What is at your core?
The journey of life is never an easy one for most of us. From birth to death, life is ever challenging us, pushing us on the back foot, squeezing us into submission, and never letting us know what lies in store for us at the next corner. Life can be harsh, unpredictable, lonely, insecure, and fearful. The mere act of living life on earth is a stressful one. As human beings, we are born on earth without really knowing why we are born, what is our purpose here on earth, and what happens to us when we exit this planet. We really don’t know whether what we do here matters, or does not matter, in the long run. We are literally thrown into a stormy ocean, with no boat, no compass, and with a family whose members themselves are struggling to make sense and navigate these waters.
When you’re asked, “Who are you?” what is your answer? Is it what you do, what your social station is, or how you see your function in life? The authentic self is the you that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role. It is the composite of all your skills, talents and wisdom. It is all of the things that are uniquely yours and need expression, rather than what you believe you are supposed to be and do. Faulty foundations in self-definition and issues of authentic personal identity can cause individuals to feel like they are in a prison. The temptation towards self-hatred is highly destructive.
Can you overcome the pressure to conform?
Most of us like the idea of being true to ourselves, but in the moment — almost like a reflex — we simply “go along to get along” and conform to what everybody else is doing. In the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch performed a series of experiments that proved people have an innate tendency to conform to social pressure. He found that people conform because they do not want to be viewed as “peculiar”. Surprisingly, this is also the one thing (more than anything) that makes us unnoticeable. When we conform with the crowd it makes us just like everyone else. It leaves nothing noteworthy about us. This is a tortured situation because our identity shifts from being our authentic self to being what everyone else wants us to be. If you truly want to be remarkable you must first learn how to be yourself; this means living authentically with a deep sense of who you are and what you have to offer.
Know your personal core values
Most of us don’t know our values. We don’t understand what’s most important to us. Instead, we focus on what our society, culture, and media values. Can you articulate your top 5 to 10 values that are most important to you? Without undergoing a discovery process, it’s challenging to identify your personal core values. It’s easy to speculate and idealise what you should value. But knowing and accepting what you value takes effort.
I have noticed that individuals experience greater fulfilment when they live by their values. And when we don’t honour our values, our mental, emotional, and physical state suffers. Values are a part of us. They highlight what we stand for. They can represent our unique, individual essence. Values guide our behaviour, providing us with a personal code of conduct. When we honour our personal core values consistently, we experience fulfilment.
It’s very easy to let circumstances dictate the sort of life you live, to feel tossed around in the world. But it’s not the only way to live. There is an alternative. Clarify what you really want, create a plan, focus, and take consistent action. There is strength in applied action, and there is freedom in saying “no” to the things that don’t fit your vision for your own life. With strong anchors, you will be able to weather any storm. Anyone who is in touch with his or her core self will always demonstrate stability even in the face of fierce winds and aggression.