In particular, Baines reveals how the devastating aftermath of Thailand’s Boxing Day Tsunami shaped his understanding of what it means to be a true leader — and how that transformative event led him to start a multi-million-dollar charity that has helped thousands.
Here, Baines draws upon his humanitarianism experience from the Thailand tsunami and looks at the importance of finding a worthy purpose in life.
The importance of finding a journey worthy of your heart and soul
I believe the challenge of our time is, as Seth Godin puts it, to ‘find a journey worthy of your heart and soul’. Almost 20 years ago my life and those around me was changed forever. In the aftermath of the Thailand Boxing Day tsunami I would deploy to the country to contribute to the international efforts in the identification of those who died. In the recovery stage of the work I was doing I met a group of children living in a tent. They had all lost their parents and homes and that meeting caused me to re-evaluate what was important in my life and how I could support them. I had unknowingly found the journey that was worthy of my heart and soul.
We live in a time when, for the overwhelming majority of us, our essential needs are met. We have access to nutritious food, safe and comfortable accommodation and an increasingly high standard of living, with more people travelling abroad than any previous generation, yet the incidence of mental illness grows at alarming rates.
I will leave those working within the sector to decide whether this is a result of – a rise in numbers of those suffering mental health issues or a reduction in the stigma attached to mental illness and more reporting around it, or a combination of both. Regardless, as a society we have a problem, and it is not going away any time soon.
How much this is a problem for ‘society’ to solve and how much it comes down to the personal responsibility of each of us to do more to meet our needs is an open question.
The challenge, or journey as may be, is to find what feeds your soul and invest in that. It need not be ground-breaking, scary or pushing your limits, but it does need to be pursued with integrity because it is what matters to you and not about the image of you it creates. It’s the thing you do not do because someone is looking, when it needn’t be captured and shared with the world who will assess you as an individual in 0.6 of a second before moving on. While it might not need to be on the edge of our physical limits, I do believe that our greatest achievements are often accomplished when we were about to give up but continue in spite of the struggle.
If you wait for the time to be right, that time might not come.
A challenge I routinely put to my audiences is this: ‘When was the last time you did something that was food for your soul? Not for your husband, your wife, your partner or your kids, but for you?’ It may be learning to play a musical instrument, it may be trekking to Base Camp or heading to Paris with the person that means most to you. Whatever it is, the important thing is to find something that is not measured by the likes or follows of your favourite social media platform, but by the feeling you get when you’re alone and without the judgement of others.
Several times a year I lead multi-day bike rides through Thailand, in support of my charity Hands Across the Water which I started in 2005. As a way of raising funds we started riding bikes in 2009 and have continued ever since with year-on-year growth (until Covid of course). The riding for me is meditative experience and beneficial on many levels, physically and mentally. But it is the strength of the shared experience that occurs as we travel between 500 and 800kms on our bikes through Thailand where the real joy lies. It is the privilege of sharing the journey with our repeat riders and our first-time riders where I find the food for my soul. We can always find reasons not to do something for ourselves; that we’re too busy, the time is not right, or a myriad of other excuses. But if we wait until the time is right, that time might never come. If not now then when?
Investing in yourself is not selfish – to not do so, possibly is
The first major hurdle we need to overcome is that investing in ourselves, which doesn’t mean doing it in the absence of those we love, isn’t selfish. You simply can’t be the best version of yourself for those who matter most when you aren’t taking time to routinely feed your soul.
We know that a healthy diet is good for us. We know that regular exercise is equally good for us. I would happily make the case that taking time to feed our soul is equally good for us on so many levels. In a society that is struggling to deal with an epidemic of mental health issues, surely there will come a time when we accept that investing time in feeding our soul is valuable preventative care and good for our mental health. Someone who regularly and actively pursues an activity that feeds their soul, I suggest, is better equipped to deal with the pressures of life.
Peter Baines OAM, author of Leadership Matters: Stories and Insights for Leaders, Achievers and Visionaries is an international keynote speaker, author and humanitarian who helps leaders and their teams maximise their leadership potential. For more information visit www.peterbaines.com.au