Team & Leadership Excellence

Purpose of Living – Part 12: Making Sense of our purpose – the space

We explored the notion of purpose from various viewpoints in the first ten blog posts in this series. We then started making sense of our purpose in the last blog post, the eleventh in the series. I invited you to explore a model of purposefulness that has been developed over the past three years of my doctoral studies. This is still work in progress and will continue to evolve in this year of writing my thesis and beyond.  However, I believe it has potential to help us make sense of our purpose because my professional practice over the past 20 years and my doctoral inquiry so far over the past three years has informed me of possible ways of making sense of our purpose.

The model as it stands now, presented in the previous (eleventh) blog post is based on the notion that our sense of purpose, that may evolve with life, is related to making a positive impact on the process of life using the talent, passion and compassion of each living being. I used the metaphor of the sun that provides us energy and inspiration, to explain purpose and the nine planets as the various aspects related to living purposefully. These aspects are related to each other through the space it resides in and I have a hunch that the space is the real thing.

Let’s explore this space. The quality of air in the space has a lot to do with the health of the nine aspects that was listed in the previous blog: awareness of the notion, glimpse of our purpose, choices we make, developing ourselves to be fit for the purpose, giving a physical representation to the purpose, adopting rituals, responding to opportunities that come our way, learning and growing with the struggles we face and inspiring others to live a purposeful life. I believe, based on my experiences that the space these aspects reside has an impact on how we experience these aspects, how they evolve, and how they feed each other. What nourishes the space is explored briefly in the following paragraphs, as a foundation for a deeper exploration of these nine aspects to follow.

Our nurturing from childhood can have an impact on how we look at the world and respond to the process of life. My childhood was quite competitive because of the financial challenges we faced, trying to be in the top ten percent in class to qualify to enter university and the pressure to win all the time as a sportsman. These aspects made me focus on short term goals rather than a bigger purpose.  However, my parents encouraged me to be religious, and I was also a boy scout, which thought me the importance of being of service to others. Therefore, it was easy for me to become aware of the importance of being purposeful, when I learnt about the notion in my mid-thirties. However, I considered it a tool that will help me become successful, perhaps due to the competitiveness in me. The discipline instilled in me due to this nurturing has made me focus on developing myself to be fit for purpose as well as to follow rituals such as, reflecting on the purpose and planning the day in the morning and review the purposefulness of the day before going to sleep. This paragraph attempts to illustrate how our nurturing, discipline, orientation towards self-development, spiritual orientation, rituals and mutuality makes the space where the aspects of purposefulness reside, rich and fertile.

The struggles I have faced in my practice of teaching and inspiring others to live a purposeful life has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of purpose. Once such case in point is when a participant who formulated a purpose statement later felt depressed as she had family and social restrictions in acting on it. This prompted me to reflect on the situation and refer to relevant literature, which helped me to deepen my understanding of purpose related to psychology. This approach of being critical, inquiring and reflective is a result of my development during my doctoral education. The next paragraph attempts to illustrate how struggles, understanding of the notion of purpose and education makes the space where the aspects of purposefulness reside, rich and fertile.

When I received the opportunity to join Sensei as a change catalyst, I grabbed it because it was in line with my purpose, even though I had to leave the financial security and the support I had from John Keells Holdings.  The courage to take risks and try new initiatives, helped me move in to this arena of purposefulness. It could also be the reverse where realising this move was purposeful gave me the courage to take the risk. The values I am attempting to live by; empathetic, selfless, passionate, excellence and authentic could have helped me in my attempt to live a purposeful life and attempting to live purposefully would have helped me to understand and live by these values even better. As I started being more in sync with the values I was aspiring to emulate during this journey, my locus of control started shifting from ‘external’ to ‘internal’.  I was getting lesser and lesser concerned about external impact, influences, approvals etc. The new conscience that was growing due to this new way of being made me concerned about issues affecting the world such as the damage to the environment, modern day slavery, victimisation of the marginalised etc. I noticed my purpose was starting to touch these areas and moving from self-preservation towards cosmic preservation. This phenomenon also explained by the concept of action logics (Cook-Greuter, 2002). I find the logic behind my actions moving from pre-conventional to post-conventional as I attempt to live a purposeful life. This paragraph attempts to illustrate how opportunities presented to us, courage to take new and/or risky initiatives, values, locus of control, and action logics, makes the space where the aspects of purposefulness reside, rich and fertile.

When the space that the nine aspects of purposefulness reside become rich and fertile, it creates a kind of energy that makes me feel fully alive. The work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, particularly in human energy, addresses the concern for our will towards the well-being of the process of life. He saw quite clearly that we must consciously will the further stages of the evolutionary process (Berry, 1999). The stronger the will the richer this space becomes in our mind and soul. The will to positively contribute to the evolutionary process can improve the quality of inquiry, mindfulness, mutuality, love and the wonder when experiencing the miracle of life, which creates psychic energy. There is a significant difference between physical energy and psychic energy.  Physical energy is diminished by use; once used we are left with lifeless matter and waste products that are often dangerous to the life process. In contrast, psychic energies are increased by use and by the numbers of those who participate in their activity. Understanding, joy, spiritual insights, music, and the arts, however, are augmented as the audience is increased or as they are communicated from one person to the other (Berry, 1999). Therefore, the way we live can make this space incredibly rich.

I invite you to explore where you are in the space in-between, using the concepts presented in this paper and assess the richness and fertility of that space. That might give you insights in to the readiness for you to start or accelerate questing for purpose. We will go in to detail regarding each of the nine aspects in the context of the space where these aspects reside, in the next nine blog posts.

Meanwhile I wish you purposeful living!

Berry, T. (1999). The Great Work, our way into the future, Bell Tower, 172, 173
Cook-Greuter, S. (2002). A detailed description of the development of nine action logics in the leadership development framework: Adapted from ego development theory. Retrieved February, 25, 2007, 1-33.

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