This post is to share the insights and shifts in attention resulting from contemplation of ‘purpose’ as part of the Principles of Effective Interaction course. It has been a very full-on week, but the benefit of this course and some of my practises are that they’ve enabled me to make sense of what’s going on (even if the reflection happens at 2am, or a day late). As a result I have a stronger appreciation for the why and how of clarity of purpose, infinite flexibility, integrity in body and speech (not just mind), dancing (as different from leveraging), and the power of purposelessness.


To state the obvious truth of most interactions: without awareness or care, the (default) purpose of every interaction can often be about reinforcing one’s self-identity. While many of us, most of the time are doing this continuously (and without even being aware of what that self-identity is), many of us also have a sense of purpose or goals that we would say we hold as being higher and more important than pure narcissism.

And, it seems that if I do have a defined purpose in this moment, or planned for a future interaction then I’m unlikely to be effective if the purpose is only written it down or verbalised and referred to occasionally. I’m much more likely to be effective and actually realise the purpose if I hold that purpose, inquiry into it, embody it continuously, and let go of any separation (e.g. separation of: ends and means; self and other; principle and practise).

In addition to that very ‘present moment’ practise, my understanding of the purpose and effectiveness in realising it can be improved over time by also doing things in this present moment that enable conscious learning: collecting data and feedback and making time for reflection and planning to improve the alignment between my purpose for interactions, what actually happened, my experience and interpretation of the outcomes.

I made several shifts this week based on this contemplation and understandings and insights from experiences this week. While the primary arena of the contemplation has been ‘professional relationships as a social entrepreneur’, I noticed relevant dynamics in many varied domains that affected how “purpose” creates the conditions for effectiveness in interactions:

  • Differences between financial reports, staff satisfaction surveys or member engagement results and my understanding and experience,
  • Feedback and insights into what my espoused values or governance structures are at work, and what others’a actual experience of working with me and the organisation are,
  • Gaps between what is needed for our region to flourish, what I and others would like to invest, what any of us actually have capacity for,
  • Beautiful collaborative initiatives that were enabled by open invitations to semi-structured conversations via a collaborative online platform,
  • Proclamations (and positive projections) about the purpose of a forum, and how they differ the actualisation (all positive, just different),
  • Tensions arising from different timeframes for different but related (nested) purposes e.g. social enterprise succeeding -> region thriving -> nation contributing -> humanity learning
  • etc.

The shifts in my attention, that I think will be enabling of more changes in behaviour, include appreciating:

  • The power that comes from taking full responsibility for alignment and integrity of people, purpose, and principles (and the weakness in its absence),
  • How personally challenging it is to be infinitely flexible (instantaneously) in my relationship with others, when it’s obvious that’s exactly what’s required to realise the purpose (and the benefits if one can do it),
  • The difference in relational dynamics between ‘dancing with or as others or systems, and ‘leveraging for’ purposes or outcomes (and the usefulness and appropriateness of both, at time),
  • The benefits and trade-offs between three different intentions for of practising (surfing, martial arts, GTD, meditation): its own enjoyment; to improve ability and get better; and to achieve a specific goal (and if they can all be held at once),
  • The pleasure and clarity that comes from appreciating the sufficiency of this moment, purposelessly (and how powerful that is in enabling realisation of purpose).

One practise that I re-discover each day with joy is 5 minutes of doing absolutely nothing. As mentioned in a previous post, being familiar with (if not always-grounded-in/as) the completely mind-blowing unknown truth and presence of this present moment: as birds chirp, leaves rustle, breeze pushes hair, buttocks rest on a chair I rediscover an immensity of no-thing and silence…and that somehow makes one’s purpose so much clearer, and one’s interactions so much more effective.

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Image Credit: Yu Shengwen — Zen, Free Bird