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. (more…)
We explored the notion of purpose from various viewpoints in the past ten blog posts in this series. I believe it is now time to explore how we can make sense of our purpose. One reason I believe the time is right is because my professional practice over the past 20 years, and my Phd inquiry so far over the past three years has informed me of possible ways of making sense of our purpose. I believe some of the readers have already explored their purpose given various experiences and learnings in their life, and from the suggestions in the ten blog posts in this series so far.
Over the last three years the model of purposefulness has changed from having four components to nine components and from linear to loosely related. This change has happened based on an action inquiry process that took place as I tried to make sense of the notion of purpose by attempting to live a purposeful life in an inquiring manner. Inquiring into the notion in my family life, work life, social life, academic life, reflecting in to my experiences, taking new actions based on the reflection, reflecting based on action, and continuing the action-inquiry process. The model of purposefulness has evolved in this process and I believe it will continue to evolve.
The model as it stands now is presented in this blog post and I will explore the components and their relationships in depth in the blog posts to follow. I believe our purpose is something universal, related to making a positive impact on the process of life. The process of life consists of living beings, both human and other than human, the environment we live in, the resources we need to live such as food, water, fresh air, clothing etc., the infrastructure we need to live such as healthcare, education, transportation, communication, housing, and processes that ensure peace, harmony, joy and morality such as worship, entertainment, sports and marriage. Therefore, each living being has a role to play, based on their talent and passion to make a positive contribution to the process of life and I believe that would help us find our purpose.
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
We explored the notion of purpose from the viewpoints of Abrahamic Religions, Eastern Philosophies, Early Sciences, Modern Sciences, Philosophy and Psychology in the last few blog posts in this series. Let’s now have a look at this notion from some of the Ecological viewpoints.
It’s May 2017. I got a call from the account manager from the company that manages my Mahogany plantation in the Ratnapura district of Sri Lanka. I have some bad news to share with you. What is it? I ask. One of your Mahogany plantations in Munihinkanda has got affected by the recent landslides. We have not been able to access the plantation yet as the authorities have restricted access to the plantations until they are able to confirm that it is secure. What is the extent of the damage? I ask. About ten acres of the plantation has slid down to the river below and we feel it includes one of your plots too. Interestingly I was calm as I heard this news, although the financial loss was going to be quite severe. As I digested this news my mind went to the time that a rubber plantation of a larger extent belonging to my father was destroyed due to a cyclone about 40 years ago. I remembered my involvement in the process of transporting the fallen trees to help my father recover at least a part of the losses. My mind wonders to the hundreds of lives lost due to this storm and thousands who have lost their livelihood as a result. Perhaps the reason for me to be emotionally unmoved by my financial loss could be because these are more severe than the personal financial loss I have incurred. I have watched with dismay so many natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunami’s, floods, landslides, forest fires etc. happening in various parts of the world. It seems like it is getting more and more intense.
We explored the notion of purpose from the view point from Abrahamic Religions, Eastern Philosophies, Early Sciences, Modern Sciences and Philosophy in the last few blog posts in this series. Let’s now have a look at this notion from some of the Psychological viewpoints.
Although having been appointed to boards of two of the companies of John Keells Holdings, at the age of 27, after having been appointed Marketing Manager of that company at the age of 24, largely due to the gold medal I won at the final examination of the UK based Chartered Institute of Marketing examination, and many corporate successes, I had a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness in my life during my early thirties. The various solutions applied to deal with this emptiness were related to attempting to think and act positively after having attended the ‘Mastery of Self’ playshop under Omar Khan during that period. I also find many of the participants attending workshops I facilitate grappling with such emptiness.
Positive psychology – A science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions promises to improve quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless – addresses this feeling of emptiness, described with the word ‘barren’. The exclusive focus on pathology that has dominated so much of our discipline results in a model of the human beings lacking the positive features that makes life worth living. Hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, and perseverance are ignored or explained as transformations of more authentic negative impulses (Seligman, Csikszentmihalyi, 2014, p.5).
My work over the last 20 years around the notion of purpose has informed me of diverse viewpoints about purpose. These viewpoints are defined by the values and beliefs of different persons I was fortunate enough to interact with. Attempting to articulate at least a glimpse of one’s purpose may require an appreciation of such values and beliefs, so that such a purpose does not conflict with who the person is and his/her viewpoint of the nature of the world. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this blog post to various religious viewpoints regarding purpose of life. The next blog post will be dedicated to the scientific viewpoints regarding purpose of life.
The position I take, based on my years of experience of doing this work is, that those who live purposefully are more successful and happier than those who do not. Interviews I have conducted with people with various religious beliefs shows that Christians and Muslims with strong religious beliefs feel that success and happiness is to live a life that will qualify them to go to heaven. For the Buddhists, it was about living in a manner that accumulates karma (merits) to be re-born under better conditions. For the Atheist, purpose is living a good life during their one stay on earth, as there is no second chance. I also learn that people without a clear purpose could also be successful and happy, so purpose alone may not be the answer for success and happiness, but it could have a positive impact. Notions such as success, happiness, better conditions, good life’ etc. as well as the notion of purpose and assumptions about purpose can differ from person to person even if they are from similar cultural backgrounds. Lets look at purpose from the view point of Abrahamic religions and Eastern philosophies.
Let us now examine purpose from Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. According to the divine wisdom of the Torah, the ultimate purpose is mitzvah performance, fulfilling the purpose of creation, the making of an abode for the Divine in this world. This is interpreted as reconstruction of the world to the perfect state of awe and the full presence of God, which was found in the Garden of Eden. The words of advice from King Solomon, “ultimately, all is known; fear God, and observe His commandments; for this is the whole purpose of man” (Ecc 12:13 English Translation of the Tanakh) also confirms this notion. Islamic divine words; “did you then think that we created you in vain, and that you would not be returned to us?” (The Holy Quran 23:115) indicates that we will return to the creator, and the words, “and I created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship me (alone)” (The Holy Quran 51:56) indicates that our purpose is to worship Allah. According to the Bible verse; “in Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:11 English Standard Version), our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God’s glory. All three religions suggest that our purpose is to work for the glory of God, but what specific action to be taken to live purposefully by each person is not explicitly mentioned and perhaps it is left for each individual to figure out.
In this section let us examine purpose from eastern philosophies: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen. In Hinduism, the purpose of self is to become a Brahman, a state where all illusions of individual identity are obliterated; the ultimate goal of deliverance is reached (Ho, 1995, p.131). Buddhist philosophy suggests that purpose of life is to attain Nirvana, a higher state of being, a reality beyond all suffering and change, as unfading, still, un-decaying, taintless, as peace and blissful (Murti, 2013, p.271-275). Although the ultimate purpose of life in Confucianism is self-realisation (Tu, 1985, chap. 7, as quoted by Ho, 1995, p.117), the centrality of the family and ethics governing relationships in self-realisation is in the centre of ‘purpose’ as self-cultivation is regarded as a necessary condition for family relationships (Ho, 1995, p.117). In Taoism, a good life is a simple life and therefore from a Taoism paradigm; simple life could be a basis for purpose. The Zen philosophy of union through the dissolution of the ego (Suzuki, 1956 as cited by Battista, Almond, 1973, p.414-5) appears to be a contradictory purpose to the existentialist’s belief in mans need to develop his own unique ego and act in terms of it (Nietzsche, 1885 as cited by Battista, Almond, 1973, p.414-5) regardless, of the level of analysis.
We see above a variety of viewpoints of purpose from various religious beliefs. Individuals coming from a particular religious belief may be predominantly guided by that religious belief and could be also influenced by other beliefs. For example, being a Roman Catholic, I am influenced by the Abrahamic beliefs, while I also see a lot of relevance in Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhist philosophy as well as the scientific paradigm. I will explore scientific paradigms in the next blog post. Meanwhile I invite you to reflect on your beliefs and the other beliefs in this post and see if it helps you make sense of the purpose of your life.
Battista, J., & Almond, R. (1973). The Development of Meaning in Life. Psychiatry, 36(4), 409-427.
Ho, D. Y. (1995). Selfhood and Identity in Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism: Contrasts with the West. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 25(2), 115-139.
Murti, T. R. V. (2013). The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Madhyamika System. Routledge, 271-5.