Purpose and Goals

i think we can largely agree that having purpose adds dimension. wether it be a general purpose in life, purpose at work [studies] or purpose in a community, just understanding that purpose adds a sense of satisfaction otherwise unattainable. indeed, we can identify with a lack of purpose contributing to a general state of anxiety. it’s when we understand that we lack purpose we seek to fill that gap. sometimes though, we replace purpose with goal.

the two words are interchangeable. having a purpose or goal can mean the same thing. indeed, most definitions would indicate that they are exactly the same thing. i think not.

it is entirely possible to have purpose, without any real specific goal. maybe it’s just the semantics of what i’m saying and using the word “purpose” immediately loses the point i just made 🙂 but if i define goals as definite outcomes, i can define purpose as a more generalized manifestation. for example: a purpose in life would be to do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. whereas a goal could be to ensure you phone your best friends living abroad at least once a month. here, purpose is more principle-based, where a goal is a result of that purpose. so, with that in mind…

when we sense a lack of purpose in our lives [and it’s uncanny just how able we are to detect that], the temptation to fill that gap with a goal, rather than a purpose is great. the problem is, even if you attain that goal, you never recognise the purpose behind it and the gap will still linger. It’s not that different with the “God gap”.

When recognising this gap in our fabric, we respond with setting up goals. on a religious front, the goals would be: attend church, join a biblestudy, be more “good”. something definitive we can measure. and temporarily, that seems to satisfy the gap. and although those might be good goals, if they never mature into purpose, the goal drops off the radar or is replaced by other goals. the direction it takes is very dependant on the perceived success from the last goal.

now because we are a very goal-orientated society [largely speaking], we tend to focus on the goals without paying too much attention to the purpose. of course, if we use the word goal and purpose interchangeably, we can bluff ourselves into believing that our goals are actually our purposes. we can believe that retirement is a goal, and hence a purpose. cars, houses, boats, labels, anything-material is a goal. and we can subtley think therefore it’s a purpose. and we all have to follow our prupose in life, right?

so even there, the distinction between purpose and goal is quite clear. just sometimes we like to confuse them [for some odd reason] but at the same time we can distinguish between the two. the tricky bit is to recognise which of your pursuits are goals, and which are purposes. which goals support a purpose and which goals are substitutes for purposes. of course, we’re entirely free to live with the consequences of any choice we make. my encouragement would be to examine purpose, understand that and live inside of that boundary. and a life with Jesus does make all that soooo much easier- but that’s just my testimony 😉


The Carpet

there are times in life when we see those we love hurting themselves. and true, it is just what we “think”. but we become convinced in our thinking that the course of action that they are pursuing is not a fruitful one. on the contrary, by all accounts it will be quite a painful end. and while we “see” that inevitability, we hope in the place where hope is guarded fiercely, that we are wrong in what we see. nonetheless, we stand as witnesses to their deeds, and more; we are with a better view since we are not blinded by influencing motivations. but what do we “do” in a situation like this?

there is a reasoning which hides behind the barrier described as “acceptance” and “love”. this reasoning also fights against the labels of “judgement” and “intolerance”. yet these are just useful labels wielded around carelessly with scant regard to the reality of what they represent. it is also in my experience, being a believer in Jesus, the Risen Messiah, the Redeemer, and solely on this basis alone, that the actions of many a christian are more readily labelled as “judgement” and “intolerance” rather than “love” and “acceptance”.

if a drug addict is needling him/herself to the point of destruction, do we just stand by and proclaim that we love and accept that person, the way they are, with all their weaknesses, and support them 100%… and not say against what they are doing? and alcoholics. there is no shortage of people ruining their lives and the lives of their families by their drinking habits. do we just accept them because we love them and say nothing against what they’re doing? and those getting divorced, splitting up families, having extra-marital affairs…. do we just say nothing against those things? we must just accept those things as casualties of a hard and difficult life? and i’m not referring to these concepts from a distance either, i’m engaging on a level where someone you love is struggling against these issues. it’s easy to philosophize from a social-psycho textbook and opion-based theory. that has it’s time and place, but what do we actually do?

me, i speak out against it. i disapprove. i encourage to not pursue that course of destruction. but that’s being judgemental. if i stay quiet and sweep it under the carpet, maybe make one or two passing comments which reflect my uneasiness about the situation, then i am showing my love and support and acceptance of the person. and when did that become so twisted?

indeed, many an evil flourishes in silence. and under that carpet where we just sweep so many things away, we choose not to fight for those who do struggle. we choose to support their path to self-destruction because somehow that’s almost easier than actually making a commitment to love them lest you take a stand and get kicked in the teeth for doing so. or maybe we just don’t really believe that what is being done is all that bad anyway, so what’s all the fuss?

If we really believed

something i read somewhere, not so long ago, went along the lines of: “…every man is immortal until they die.” It got me thinking about how we generally tend to regard ourselves as invincible. then not so long after that, i came across this piece of graffiti: “…if you really believed that you were going to die, would you change the way you live?” it seems the writers of these two pieces confirm the common perception that we live life “as if”.

We live “as if” we got all the time in the world. We live “as if” the single most important thing we could be doing right now is our job. We live “as if” the single most relevant ambition we could have is to secure an easy retirement. We live “as if” we’re going to live forever.

Yet we all know that we, or someone we love, will die, but we don’t really seem to believe that. Or we choose not to. Either way, the choices we make reflect what we believe. And then there’s the “what we’d like to believe”. And we lament over our inability to live a life based on what we would like to believe, disarming ourselves with a battery of excuses and justifications about the ways of society and the lack of choices we are presented with. No one said anything about it being a free ride, so if you believe that, well, you’ll live according to that.

Truth is, we are all but one breath away from losing this life. We are starkly reminded by the death of a cousin. And while we evaluate our own lives and confirm our commitments to live like every day is a gift from God Almighty, we strive to manifest that insight, applying it to every decision we make.

Perception of Control

one of the biggest challenges facing any lead position [particularly in an agile domain, but not solely within that domain] is wrestling for control. the processes, frameworks, tools and values are established in order that some kind of control may be exerted over the chaos. and in a position where you are required to lead, you are perceived as controlling, to a greater or lesser degree, those systems. a kind of lion tamer, if you will. the tricky bit though is not to buy into the perspective that you are controlling anything. once you do bite, settle in for a fight. how so?

you have a great architecture all planned [or semi-planned]. you’ve been collaborating on it for some time and you [your team visionaries] release it for implementation. inevitably, it doesn’t go strictly according to plan. and that’s ok, as long as what does get implemented is not a deadly wound, right? likewise, you have an iteration all neatly planned, but once it gets started Mr. Murphy makes his appearance. and suddenly you need to deal with unplanned, _urgent_ stories. from requirements gathering to release, when you are tasked with leading any of the above, it’s _hard_ to control it. and depending on your personality, ethics, team-size, professionalism, culture, your reaction will fall somewhere between the extremes of HeartAttack and Whatever. Or for the more detailed, see The Stress Continuum.btw, this also applies to any lead position in commerce. any business manager, CEO, financial director- they can all fall into the same trap. my disclaimer here is that i am nowhere near close to any sort of expert in commerce, but i have seen remarkably similar behaviour where the issue of control is concerned.

now control is very difficult to get right because of the linear mindset we have engrained. inputs and outputs, objectives and outcomes, incentives and goals; all work well. defining them is cognitively sound, striving for them is rational, even good. getting to them is difficult. and it almost seems that the moment we think have control of the system, we lose it. we use terms like “hit a bump, snag or hitch”. we may even resort to phrases like “sabotaged” or “hijacked”. but that perception of losing control is more likely a result of something completely ordinary. ie, not always an intentful diabolical plot to thwart your efforts. even if paranoia is a virtue 🙂

and why the linear midset does not work is because we are not strictly dealing with a linear system in anything that we collaborate on. life is not linear. yes, we’d love to ignore the impact of home on work and vice-versa. it’s just not realistic. yes, we’d love to tell people to leave their problems at home, and vice-versa. you’re blinded. and don’t let something like a terrorism impact on this delivery. when you come to work, you work. you leave all that behind, right? mmm…. of course, we do recognise major events. particulalry, the ones close to home. and there’s also good reason why we simply can’t factor all those things in to our planning. it’s just too much. we’d never get started with anything. and we also have to draw lines about what we can _allow_ to affect us, for the sake of moving along. but truth be told, things completely unbeknown to us wrestle against our perceived control of any system.

so how to combat this? abandon your perceived control. recognise you have no real control and focus on influencing the system. a leader, and we can look to world leaders here for examples, doesn’t control a nation, or even group. the ones that do we recognise as cults. great leaders influence. and since this is not about morals, but about successfully achieving, we can ignore the good and bad when it comes to using the word “great”. if you can but exert the right type and amount of influence, you will probably achieve far more than when you try control.

architecture. don’t try and control it. influence your team to get it right. that involves education, imparting values and a lot of rhetoric. process, agile or not. don’t control it, again, influence it. gathering requirements and planning the iteration likewise requires a lot of influence to get it right. how do you stop unplanned, _urgent_ stories from distracting your attention 2 days into an interation? you can not control it. but if you have influenced your sales team and product managers correctly, they’re less likely to interrupt. but that’s not to say they won’t ever do it 🙂 how do control a junior developer from not writing tests? you can’t. but you can influence them to. and so every situation you’re faced with when leading something is never about control. if you think your job is to control it, you’re more likely to be frustrated than not.

so leading any position where control is perceived, your first task in accepting the role is to recognise that you have no control. even if others expect you to. there too, you can influence expectations to a greater understanding that life is non-linear. we don’t live in a box. we don’t achieve outputs based on linear inputs. there’s too much beyond our control [and influence] to even try cater for, so we don’t. yet, in some way, we do try cater. just differently to what we might expect would work.