Purpose of Living – Part 9: The Action Logics (pre-conventional) Viewpoint
We explored the notion of purpose from the viewpoints of Abrahamic Religions, Eastern Philosophies, Early Sciences, Modern Sciences, Philosophy, Psychology & Ecology in the last few blog posts in this series. Let’s now have a look at this notion from an ‘Action Logics (pre-conventional)’ viewpoint.
Let’s first try to understand the notion of ‘Action Logics’. It tries to explain the ‘logic’ behind the ‘action’ we take. Most action is based on decisions unless it is spontaneous. If decisions are well thought out and rational, they could be based on an intention, reason or purpose. This shows that actions can be based on a reason or purpose.
Therefore, the logic behind decisions we make that determine actions we take, could have an impact on the quality of the decision and the resultant action. The notion of action logics has some potential in understanding this phenomenon.
The developers of the ‘Action Logics’ model proposes two broad categories of Action Logics: pre-conventional and post conventional. According to a research study in the USA of 4300 plus adults, it was found that 85% belong to the pre-conventional group. While it is difficult to define pre-conventional, to me it seems like those who are more materialistic, achievement oriented, less mature, younger and competitive would fall in to this group. Let me try to make sense of the four pre-conventional ‘Action-Logics’ in relation to purposeful living.
Pre-Conventional Action Logics
The first pre-conventional group is described as Opportunist (4.3% of those researched), who are low in expertise and focused on own needs. I would feel they would have survival and self-preservation/gratification as their main reason for their decisions and action and hence their purposefulness could be considered at a surface level.
The second pre-conventional group is described as Diplomat (11.3% of those researched), who are low in expertise but concerned about the needs of others. I would feel they would have survival and mutual gratification as their main reason for their decisions and action and hence their purposefulness could be considered at a surface level but broader than the earlier group.
The third pre-conventional group is described as Experts (36.5% of those researched), who are high in expertise but focused on own needs and belief on own ability. I feel they would be driven by the need to be better at what they are good at and assert their expertise on others. They may tend to be over-confident, arrogant and defensive in the face of feedback. Therefore, the main reason for their decisions and action and hence their purpose could be considered at higher level than the earlier two groups but centred around themselves.
The fourth pre-conventional group is described as Achiever (29.7% of those researched) who are high in expertise but focused on the needs of others. I feel they would be driven by the need to enhance their expertise for the benefit of others and would be willing to consider different viewpoints, be less defensive and take feedback. They may tend to be less over-confident and arrogant than the earlier group and would be open to feedback. Therefore, the main reason for their decisions and action and hence their purpose could be considered to be at a higher level than the earlier three groups as it is more mutual, broader and of service to others.
The above reflection shows that the level of expertise and mutuality can have an impact on the ‘Action Logics’ of people. I personally feel I was an opportunist when I started my adult life and have gone through all phases. At this point in my life, I would be hovering around expert, achiever and starting to be in some of the post-conventional action logics. My personal experience shows that I move to higher action logics with age, knowledge, experience and wisdom. I have also seen some people getting stuck at lower Action Logics, perhaps the reason for smaller percentages found to be remaining in Opportunist and Diplomat stages in the research study.
Although I feel we have a higher purpose, many people may not be aware of such a notion let alone knowing what their higher purpose is, when they are at lower levels of action logics. I came across the notion of ‘purpose’ when I was around 33 years old and it is only now that I am starting get a deeper understanding of the notion and see a glimpse of my purpose. I also feel the glimpse of the purpose I had, has moved from getting to giving, and from becoming to being over the years.
I hope to discuss purpose from a post-conventional view point in the next blog post. Meanwhile I invite you to reflect on your decisions and actions and try to determine what your current action-logic might be and consider if it changes based on situations. I hope that getting clarity of this aspect will help you discover your purpose. We will be discussing various ways of discovering your purpose later in this series.
 See Cooke Greuter 2002 – Nine Action Logics and Their Development in Detail. and Torbert 2004 – Action inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership