We explored the notion of purpose from the viewpoints of Abrahamic Religions, Eastern Philosophies, Early Sciences, Modern Sciences, Philosophy, Psychology, Ecology and Action Logics (pre-conventional) viewpoints in the past blog posts in this series. Let’s now have a look at this notion from an ‘Action Logics (post-conventional)’ viewpoint.
I started the previous blog post with an attempt to understand the notion of ‘Action Logics’, which tries to explain the ‘logic’ behind the ‘action’ we take. Most unspontaneous actions are based on decisions, which are rational, and therefore they could be based on an intention, reason or purpose. The four pre-conventional action logics; opportunist, diplomat, expert and achiever, explored in the last blog post was based on the degree of mutuality and expertise.
Let’s attempt to explore post-conventional action logics in this blog post based on the proposition by Greuter Cooke (2002). According to a research study in the USA of about 4300 adults, it was found that 18.2% belong to the post-conventional group. While it is difficult to define post-conventional, to me it seems like those who are more mature, wiser, selfless, seeking happiness through harmony, simplicity, generosity and spirituality, would fall into this group.
Now, I try to make sense of the four pre-conventional ‘Action-Logics’ in relation to purposeful living. The first post-conventional group is described as Individualist (11.3% of those researched), who’s worldview is based on their personal and cultural conditioning and would operate with a time horizon of 5 to 20 years. Those who can adjust their way of being to fit in to the cultures they operate in would belong to this group. They consider that all aspects of their world are consistent of systems such as biological systems in the body, political systems in society, business processes in organizations and energy system of the universe etc. They look to experiences in the here and now for their peace of mind and they feel truth can never be found. I feel that they would consider understanding the systems relevant to them with a long-term (5 to 20 years), based on their personal and cultural conditioning and making a positive impact on such systems as a reason (purpose) for being. They would live with the belief that the truth for their existence (life purpose) would never be found and would try to make sense of it in the here and the now.
The second post-conventional group is described as Strategist (4.9% of those researched), whose worldview includes the world views of others with similar convictions and would operate with a time horizon of a life time. Those who have been able to change the direction of their own lives and the way of being etc., to enhance self-esteem and grow, would belong to this group. Their thinking is based on a belief that the world operates on a set of general systems that combines biological systems, political systems, business systems and universal energy systems. They work towards enhancing self-esteem and personal growth and seek to achieve this through integrating body and mind through practices such as meditation and Yoga and they feel that truth can be approximated. I feel that they would consider understanding and making a positive impact on the universal energy systems, based on the thinking of others with similar convictions as a reason (purpose) for being. They would live, continuously improving the integration between body and mind, as a means of searching for the truth of their existence (life purpose) during their entire lifetime.
The third post-conventional group is described as Alchemist (1.5% of those researched), who’s worldview extends beyond their culture and would think ahead beyond their lifetime. Those belonging to this group are committed to serving others in helping them change the direction of their lives. Clergy, teachers, counsellors, university professors, authors, musician, actors, inspirational speakers, sportsman etc., who have reached a level of excellence that inspires others would belong to this group. They are comfortable making sense of this world from different paradigms and accepts tension and paradox as part of the process of life. They separate truth from a non-dual reality; i.e. they consider that truth may be found in a reality that is alien to the realities of themselves and others they interact with. I feel that they would consider helping others to understand and make a positive impact on the universal energy systems, based on thinking beyond their cultures and beyond their lifetimes as a reason (purpose) for being. They would thrive on tension and paradoxes and use that energy to help others search for the truth for their existence (life purpose).
The fourth post-conventional group is described as Ironist (0.5% of those researched), who’s worldview extends across the universe in a time/space continuum. Those belonging to this group are committed to not only helping others to improve their lives individually but also uniting people with paradoxical viewpoints. People of the caliber of Pope Francis, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and John F Kennedy would belong to this very special group. They are comfortable understanding and helping others understand the convictions and intentions of groups with paradoxical viewpoints and this irony is looked at positively by those who are inspired by Ironists. Their presence is unassuming, they are fully empathetic, and they are non-interfering. This is the reason why Pope Francis is respected by people of all religions, Gandhi was respected by the Hindus and the Muslims of India, Mandela was respected by the Blacks and Whites of South Africa, and Kennedy was respected by the Democrats and the Republicans, young and the old, men and women from all ethnicities in the United States. They find truth in the interconnectedness and non-separateness within a timeless spirit. I feel that they would consider being totally selfless, and helping others to unite, see the value in each other, see the importance of harmony and make a positive impact on the process of life, based on eternal universal thinking as a reason (purpose) for being. Their unassuming presence, non-interfering nature and total empathy to help others find truth in each other, and to make a positive contribution to the process of life is the reason for their existence (life purpose).
The above reflection attempts to show how the small percentage of people who enter the post-conventional stage evolve from individualist to strategist to alchemist to ironist stages. The advocates of this notion propose two presuppositions;
A person operating from any one of the action logics find it easy to understand the action logics preceding their current stage and will find it difficult to understand action logics succeeding their current stage. Therefore, if you are finding it difficult to understand any stage explained in this blog, it is best to re-visit it later when you feel that you have evolved to the next stage.
One cannot set a target to achieve post-convectional stages. However, when one spends adequate time in one stage, trying to understand the next stage, then they may find themselves in the next stage. It is a process that needs to happen as in the evolution of life. The very desire to ‘achieve’ a post-conventional stage is a confirmation that you are yet in the pre-conventional ‘achiever’ stage or any other pre-conventional stage. Therefore the approach should be to understand what your current stage is and attempt to understand what the next stage looks like.
I personally feel, at this point in my life, I am mostly hovering around the pre-conventional expert and achiever stages. Since I am continuously re-inventing my life and helping others to do so, through my doctoral studies and my people development practice, I may be spending limited time in post-conventional action logics of ‘strategist’ and ‘alchemist’, but I am not sure if this claim is true.
I hope this discussion is useful in understanding the notion of purpose and how it can be influenced by our ‘action logics’. The best way to use this writing is to reflect on your decisions and actions and try to determine what your current action-logic might be and try to understand how you will be in the next stage. I hope that getting clarity of this aspect will contribute towards the discovery of your purpose and in living a purposeful life.
We will be discussing various ways of discovering your purpose and living a purposeful life later in this series.
Cooke Greuter, S., 2002. Nine Action Logics and Their Development in Detail.