Meditations on Purpose
‘One must be something, in order to do something.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
‘Purpose is a function of character, and character is something we mostly notice by its absence. The news these days is filled with stories about the absence of character… the entrepreneur who cuts corners or who is aggressive due to his desire to get the job done…I believe that Purpose – not money, not status – is what people most want from work. Make no mistake. They want compensation; some want an ego-affirming title. Even more, though, they want their lives to mean something beyond the superficial…Not just accomplishing day-to-day results but actually making a better world, by making companies more effective and more fully realized in their Purpose…To make better companies, one must start with developing better leaders that stand for something.’ – Nikos Mourkogiannis, leadership specialist
A sense of Purpose is a deeply felt sense of awareness of our Self, our truest nature, our soul-calling – the Work that the world is calling us to do, that calls upon everything we are, everything we experience, everything we believe in.
This requires us to learn how to listen to the sound of our Soul, which is in-tune with the World Soul (anima mundi) of Nature/Cosmos. It is this ability to truly listen, to tune-in to our Selves, which enables our deeper Purpose to come out of our depths and inform our daily conscious awareness.
This quality of listening into our Selves transforms our ability to listen to others. It enables us to listen with our full attention, while quietening our distractions. And when we listen to others with our full attention, the other person senses this quality of attentiveness and (consciously or unconsciously) begins to open up and share in a more authentic and responsive, less defensive and reactive, way. Our conversing and communing as human beings opens up to a richer ground. It is from this essential quality of listening to our Selves and to others that we fertilise a nutritious ground from which authentic purposeful communication and relationships spawn; this is the essential (yet often over-looked) foundation for purposeful business.
Real leadership galvanises diverse people through a deep sense of Purpose that speaks to their souls. This kind of leadership facilitates the forming of working environments that consciously develop the values that enable the authentic execution of that Purpose in the world. The Purpose provides certainty, confidence, conscious intent and unity-within-diversity. It informs the work-space for adaptive, self-organising, empowered teams of people to bring more of themselves to work, in-so-doing enabling the teams, organisation and business ecosystem of relations to not just survive in volatile challenging times, but to thrive.
Once the Purpose within our leaders is clear, and starting to be embodied by the organisational culture, it also needs to be conveyed authentically in the strategy of the organisation. In practice, this is an on-going process, not a static set of documents, but a continual listening to ourselves, to the field of the community, to the relational intention of others. It requires being sensitive to other’s moral imperative, and also understanding the commercial opportunities/dangers of pursuing certain approaches and relationships with other parties who may not resonate with the same Purpose or ethical intention.
The Purpose is lived day-to-day. It illuminates the ‘way’ we go about things, and acts as a powerful differentiator from our competitors, and can allow for superior profits enduring advantage by reducing risk aversion and fear, while improving creativity, innovation and the formation of synergistic relations.
This Purpose is a conscious intent we daily hold dear. It helps guide us in these volatile times, and helps reduce the temptations and distractions of our ego-machinations – fame, greed, jealousy, and material success for success’s sake. It prevents us from being diverted from our Truth by the allure of other people’s praise/criticism, judgements and differing political, commercial or ethical perspectives. Purpose roots us while allowing us to be open and flexible to the Dance of Life – it provides the convergence within the divergence of vibrant living systems.
Recent findings in quantum physics, sociology, neurobiology and psychology point to our bodies being embedded and embodied in a rich milieu of relationships – physical, chemical, psychological, energetic and quantum relations, with our human and more-than-human world. We now know that our minds do not reside in our brains, but a complex inter-relational gestalt of brain, heart and gut neural networks, our hormonal and lymphatic systems, and our energetic and quantum relations within and beyond our bodies. Candice Pert refers to our mind as the ‘bodymind’, as it is our entire selves immersed within this rich milieu of relations that make up our mind. And there is now scientific evidence that our conscious intention – and the quality of our attention – influences the coherence of our bodymind i.e. our ability to shift from a dis-eased incoherent state to one of purposeful authentic behaviour that improves our wellbeing and the synergy of our relationships.
It seems from scientific research that when we commit to life-affirming compassionate choices with clear purposeful conscious intention, there is a shift in the quality of our attention, notable beneficial changes in the protein behaviour within our cells, the neuroplasticity of our neural networks, and greater overall coherence of our bodymind (for instance, the attunement of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, and also attunement of our left and right brain hemispheres, as well as entrainment of our brainwaves with the waves of our heart and gut regions). This coherence has a notable beneficial effects on others within our organizational community (both locally and non-locally within our emotional field).
There is also scientific evidence emerging that once a threshold of more than 10% of the people within an organisation or community of people shift their conscious intent, the social field of the whole group shifts making transformation quicker, easier, and longer lasting. In other words, it is cheaper and more effective to transform our social systems through purposeful conscious intent than it is through the traditional carrot-and-stick extrinsic factors of conventional organisational development approaches.
This has profound implications for leaders seeking rapid and lasting transformation amid these fast-moving climes. The ability for our leaders to be coherent, clear and true in their sense of purpose, while framing their interventions with conscious authentic intention, greatly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of organisational transformation.
‘There is a pressing need for leaders to participate consciously, intentionally, and in harmony with life’s processes, channelling our wilful collective action toward the conditions life needs to thrive… How can I serve this unfolding, either by intervening, by planting a seed, by cultivating a freshly sprouted initiative, or by compassionately hospicing something that needs to die?’ Michelle Holliday, organisational specialist
We are essentially flowing as a process of becoming through our ‘being-in-the-world’, as the philosopher Martin Heidegger would say. Perceiver and perceived are co-participating, with the quality of our intention and attention helping the pulsation of flow in our local (and non-local) neighbourhood within this sentient ocean of interconnected life. How we attend to each moment, the quality of our attention and the purposefulness of our intent, is what governs the quality of our co-participatory relationship with the field within and all around us.
‘The success of the intervention depends upon the state of the intervener.’ Bill O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance
Bach wrote at the bottom of his compositions, SDG – Soli deo Gloria, ‘to God alone the glory.’ In the composer’s view he was simply being a conduit, a messenger, in service of something flowing through him into his Work. This was his duty, his purpose, to be in service of this Great Work. Yet we don’t have to be religious or believe in God to have this sense of deeper purpose, all we have to do is see beyond the meaninglessness of today’s mindless culture and begin to open ourselves up to a deeper way of being, a more mindful, more present, more authentic state of awareness that informs our being-in-the-world. In-so-doing our world conspires to help us, and we sense subtly lit streams of synchronicity; we flow with our receptivity and responsiveness, rather than fire-fighting with energy-draining reactiveness. Instead of the daily challenges sapping our life-force, our day can nourish and enrich our learning of becoming more of who we were truly born to be. As we open up to our deeper Purpose, we become stewards of Life, in service of this awesome Dance of Life within and all around us.
‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes, is not in the seeking of new landscapes but in the seeing with new eyes.’ Marcel Proust, philosopher
The medieval word artificer or ‘maker of art’ is where the concept of ‘artisan’ as a creative maker of art comes from. In this artful service of life, the artisan – or craftsman as referred to by social philosopher Richard Sennett, or tradesman as referred to by philosopher and mechanic Matthew Crawford – gains meaningful engagement through the act of creating and delivering something of quality and value to self and society. Sennett views the creative potential for craftsmanship as innate within all of us. The act of doing something well unleashes a deep motivation and sense of wellbeing within the artisan. Through the creative act, the artisan ensures work flows with creative energy and so is a conduit for realising creative potential. Charles Eisenstein in his Sacred Economics talks of ‘the one who bows into service’, recognising the sacred nature of work delivered with loving attention. The work of the artisan is authentic and beautiful, consisting of an intrinsic richness emanating from a co-creative unfolding process of worker and work which necessarily involves an active engagement of heart, mind, body and soul. It is this transforming nature of wholehearted work that brings coherence and fulfilment, birthing a sense of meaning from which happiness and a rightful sense of place and purpose in society derive.
‘The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve’ Albert Schweitzer, Nobel prize winner
The leader enables a diverse group of people to unlock their individual creativity in ways that inform the unifying Purpose of this diverse multiplicity of people. The leader conveys this Purpose, and also embodies this Purpose through conscious intention and quality of attention, enabling a coherent field to evolve in a co-participatory way for individuality to thrive within community.
In this regard, it may be seen that to be a conscious Leader with authentic Purpose in today’s mindless culture cut adrift from soul and meaning, is THE vital Work of our lifetime.
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