Finding your higher-order purpose

Finding your higher-order purpose

On Friday 3rd of June 2022, our flight from Jakarta circled over Lombok, an island in Indonesia that I was going to be visiting for the first time. Looking through the airplane window I could see this lush green tropical land mass surrounded by turquoise water. I smiled as this was going to be my home for now.

I had most of my family with me, but I was also on a personal journey. A journey of reconnection. 

  • I was looking for a lifestyle that was more tranquil, and more serene. 
  • I also wanted to use this time to do some deep inner reflection, and to spend more time reconnecting with my spiritual side. 
  • And I wanted to do this in a way that reconnected me to nature. Instead of talking about regeneration and sustainability, I wanted to experience ‘living light.’

I was hoping that I could find this in Lombok.

Image credit: Author – The natural beauty of Lombok

In the build-up to moving to Indonesia, I had been following local stories across a number of news channels to familiarise myself with our new home. On Monday evening an interesting news article popped up in my newsfeed. 

Earlier that day the Indonesian Tourism Minister, Mr. Sandiaga Uno, had an interview with Bloomberg Television where he was speaking about the country’s strategy for attracting more people and investment into the country:

“In the past, the three Ss was: sun, sea and sand. We’re moving it to serenity, spirituality and sustainability. This way we’re getting better quality and better impact on the local economy.”

As I absorbed this message a strange feeling of serendipity came over me.  I am on this personal journey of reconnection focusing on serenity, spirituality and regeneration (sustainability)… three days after we arrive in Indonesia, a national minister makes an announcement that is completely aligned with my personal future vision. 

What are the chances? 

Am I being sent a message that this is where I needed to be? I had this warm feeling of being welcomed, almost a confirmation that everything was going to be all right. My higher-order purpose was aligning with my physical environment.

What is your higher-order purpose?

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In the work that I do for clients, I talk about this higher-order purpose for organizations. We call it the organization’s Massive Transformative Purpose, MTP. It sits above the Vision and Mission statement. It is this future world that is bigger than the organization itself. It is a very powerful concept to align diverse worldviews across an organization.

It is important because it guides you through troubled waters. When you need to make a tough decision (which is normally based on money or organizational politics) you need to ask yourself:

Is this going to make a positive contribution toward achieving my MTP? If not, don’t do it.

Zoe Palmer and I took the University of Cape Town, UCT through such an exercise both at an institutional level as well as at the faculty and departmental level. 

UCT’s Massive Transformative Purpose is:

Unleash human potential for a fair and just society

Some people were questioning where is Teaching and Learning in the MTP.  They were reminded that the MTP is bigger than UCT, bigger than only teaching and learning. It needs to be broadly relevant to include all staff beyond academia. 

It also needs to be:

  • Highly aspirational – Does it lie just beyond what seems possible to achieve?
  • Passionate – does it convey your passion?
  • Purposeful – what do you want to achieve?

The MTP was presented on numerous platforms across the institution and people were challenged to ask how they were going to unleash themselves. Various faculties, departments and units have since then run their own MTP exercises. It was wonderful to see the #unleash message coming through in various communications across the institution. It is not a silver bullet but it is that very important Southern cross.

Image credit: UCT twitter account – #unleash banner

So where do you find yourself in your life? Have you clearly defined your Massive Transformative Purpose? What is your Southern cross that guides you through troubling times? Can you visualise it? 

  • Is it so aspirational that you are scared you might not achieve it?
  • Are you deeply passionate about achieving it? 
  • And very importantly is it purposeful to yourself, your family, your community and humanity at large?

Now I can hear people saying: I can’t even get through my emails and you want me to find time to conceptualise an MTP? If you are one of those people, then it is even more relevant to you.  It is the busyness that gets us distracted from what is important. You are so busy meeting deadlines that everything else becomes secondary.

If you do not have your own higher-order purpose clearly defined you run the risk of ending up in some undesirable future. That future is normally designed by someone else. 

Stop, slow down, breathe and spend time in your desired future. Live your life, not the life others expect of you.

Achieving an organizational title… cannot be your higher-order purpose?

Image credit: Author – Finding peace in the countryside of Lombok

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