Part 1 of 6: Reimagining the Context of Work: Why Purpose?

Purpose aka “Your reason for getting up in the morning.” ~ Bryan Dik PhD

Work is not working anymore

We live in an increasingly purposeless world filled with purposeless work. The Old Story and its attendant social institutions, which have risen over the past 500 years, were designed to promote continuous growth; first through extraction of non-renewable resources, later by industrial efficiency, and now through manipulation of financial systems and cronyism. These institutions are no longer life affirming, nor supportive of personal well-being (integration of spirit, mind and body), let alone human wholeness (integration of individuals into a greater whole).

Work is a central human activity, which provides sustenance, community, meaning, identity, and now we realize, well-being and wholeness. We focus on it because it is universal – irrespective of political affiliation, religion or culture.

Shared purpose is the social-psychological glue, which binds humans together. It is the commonly held belief, which informs our attitudes and ultimately our behavior.

Why is it important now? Because humankind has reached a point in its evolution where it can consciously choose its pattern: creation or destruction? Is it going to be global warming, warring or warning?

This is our manifesto about purposeful work and the purpose of work. It is a declaration of our intentions, motives and views on the topic – our purpose is your purpose at work.

Purpose: Find Your WHY – your guiding North Star.

Why Purpose?

Purpose is the Why of our Whys? All humans are in and on a purpose quest, whether they know it or not. Our sole purpose, of human existence, is ultimately our soul purpose, which begs the questions:

  • Why are we here?

  • What are we to do?

To find our purpose and the corresponding path to its fulfillment so that we may become better together. We are not human beings nor are we human doings – we are human creating’s. Life is about that which we are becoming and have yet to become. It is about turning this into that,  and what matters most is not the ‘this’ or the ‘that’…

  • but the ‘into’, the transition, because shift happens, constantly,

  • and the emotional experience of transformation through creation, recreation and conflict co-resolution,

  • and from fear to love, from me to we, and from anger and angst to amity and abundance.

Why now?

The New Story of Work needs to be started to take the place of the Old Story and shared for the salvation of our souls, livelihoods and planet. The Old Story of “Why are we here?” (endless expansion) and “What are we to do?” (exploit the planet and each other) is a huge dying liability, and has no replacement. We are in dire need of The New Story of how to get out of this big fat mess we are mired in, and to start on the path to transformation so we may become better together through individual and shared positive purpose, and an awakening to our shared wholeness and inescapable mutuality.

The power and persuasiveness of the old myths – that have been sold to the masses and perpetuated by America’s rich powerful elite and their minions (the 0.01% and their 1%) for generations, which went viral globally – is dying.

It was built on top of a number of myths such as Manifest Destiny, Westward Ho!, the Rugged Frontiersman, the Lone Cowboy, the Self-Made Man, and the American Dream. From 1950-1975, this dream became a reality for more than not as the Post-War Boom, based on American global supremacy, and provided a rising tide that lifted many boats.

But it was an anomaly and came to a crashing halt. By 1980, the intertwined myths of Infinite Growth, Everybody Can Become Middle Class, and The Business of America is Business, collectively known as the American Dream from Wall Street, turned into the American Nightmare on Main Street. These myths have not been replaced, so we are operating in a vacuum without a compass and, at best, are going nowhere… at worst, somewhere we don’t want to go and from which there is no return, ever. It’s like flying blind with no compass, gas gauge and altimeter against strong headwinds in a pea soup fog.

To sum, because the world has lost its way and has no core purpose, along with its misleaders and misleading institutions, it needs a new guiding North Star to guide our journey – The New Story of Work.

Our worldview and beliefs were built upon massive industrialization and commercialization that are no longer able to promote a life affirming set of community actions and co-existence, and are ultimately unsustainable.

We need to give birth to a new philosophy constructed upon shared positive purpose, values and value, which means rethinking Profit, People, Planet, and creating a new pathway to creating a new socially forward story and reality, such as People, Planet, Profit.

We say pathway because a path is found and co-determined by its users from inception. Whereas a road is designed and pre-determined by its builders, and then it is either used or not.

The old story was about roads; the new one will be about pathways.

Why work? And what is the purpose of work?

Some have asked us ‘why focus on work’? Because the very nature of ‘work’ as we have known it for several hundred years is changing, and that is driving other profound changes in the rest of our lives.

What we hope to accomplish with our six blogs on The New Story of Work?

Bottom line, we seek:

  • To awaken concerned people to their need to re/discover their Purpose, Place and Practice for sharing that purpose.

  • Provide them with a pathway to accomplish that, particularly in the workplace.

The workplace is where so many people spend so much time doing stuff they really don’t like or understand the purpose – the why – of what they’re asked, directed and forced into doing… working hard and achieving little or hardly working, which is not working and hasn’t for a long time.

Inner and outer wealth

Many people don’t have a life, which makes making a living twice as important, for it not only fills the mouth but the mind as well. As we all know, eating, like all forms of consumption, is only temporary – it will only keep you full and feeling full for only so long. Then the hunger pangs return.

If “Home is where the heart is” and there’s no one home, and there’s no one at work – what to do? Self-medicate through any number of mind-numbing addictive substances, activities and behaviors. We need a story that will take us home, and put us to work now and long into the future.

Many people are in denial that the crumbling of our society has begun. But, you don’t have to look much further than the news media to find stark evidence of this happening. The New York Times recently reported:

“Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s”.

Why is this happening? The reasons are many and complex. We surmise that sadly, more and more people are unemployed, underemployed or misemployed, which means they don’t have a life, and either no living or a poor living at that. This is made radically evident by the flat or declining incomes, assets and percentage of overall wealth of the 99% for the past three decades.

The same type of thing happened at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, came to the conclusion that there was no sense of purpose and of belonging then. And we conclude similarly today.

It is our contention that a sense of belonging is built on a sense of connection through shared purpose to others and a life-affirming purpose greater than themselves. All this means that bringing purpose to work and then putting it to work is enormously important.

Personal purpose is often found at and put to work at work. Organizations of all kinds are made up of people so they need a purpose, too.

Fundamentally, the purpose of work is to bridge the chasm between the personal and the universal need for purpose.

Purpose is like oxygen for the soul. Our sole purpose is to provide an outlet for the soul through finding and then following a purposeful path to healthy profits, yes, but to a healthy people and planet as well. This is made increasingly evident by the shifting focus from shareholders to stakeholders. If life ceases to be sustainable on our small planet, there will be no customers, clients or corporations – forever.

Purposeless work (I’m only here for the bucks) also has a profound and often devastating impact on workers, their families, their communities and the planet… after all, good planets are hard to find. That’s why we have chosen to focus on work. It is a common social activity which gives us meaning, without which we are lost.

Backstory: What are we building upon

We are building upon a traditional of view of the world in three parts.

Our culture is built on – informed and influenced by – this triadic tradition, which pervades all cultures, east and west, old and new. Triadic relationships are the relational building blocks of many important and universal relationships that come in threes. Examples: profit, breaking even and loss; soul, mind and body; father, mother and child; Father, Son and Holy Ghost; before, now and after; left, middle and right, etc.

Why? Since all things are relative (they only exist in relation to something, for example, there is no ‘big’ without ‘small’ and ‘medium’) and cannot exist in our minds without relativity, most concepts only come alive with an opposite and a transitional being or state. Most things in life are not black or white, but are grey – part of a spectrum. We will come back to this three-part relationship over and over. We see all these parts linked together and we visualize that as a triangle. For example:

The next three blogs in this series will examine each of these three parts separately. Then in the fifth blog, we will bring them back together again as an integrated whole, and in the sixth blog, how to put all this to work for you.

How do these three parts fit together?

Our core purpose is to guide people, teams, organizations and communities to awaken to their potential of wholeness in life and put it to work – to have a renewing sense of purpose, of mattering and being a part of something much greater. Wholeness, in the sense that we intend it, is a bringing together our unified selves (spirit, mind and body) into a great whole guided by the North Star of shared purpose.

Wrapping it all up

This first blog, Blog 1, is the set up. It has outlined what we are going to share with you. It begins describing the structure of our New Story of Work and shows you how these parts are related. Blog 2 will focus on the Purpose of Leadership; Blog 3 will look at the Purpose of Place, how purpose turns a space into a place (where connections are made); and Blog 4 digs into the Purpose of Practice, how to put this purpose into practice, and furthermore, why this is so important for business.

Blog 5 summarizes all of this, and stresses the need for holistic (systems) thinking, co-creation and shared purpose. Finally, Blog 6 lays out a step-by-step method for actually making the emotional and organizational transformation required to move from the Old Story to the New Story of Work.

So, this is our manifesto. Come join with us on the pathway to bringing purpose to work.