Our purpose indicates that we place a value on something. Our vocation begins with identifying and understanding what we value. Our values are our fundamental beliefs, those principles, standards, and qualities which we consider to be worthwhile and desirable. They are the context to all of our actions. There are different types of values whose definition relates to how they function. Values can be universal, such as respect for the individual, honour, and integrity. These can be difficult, if not impossible, to translate into action all of the time but they are still worth aspiring to. It is in the process that they call us to account and demand of us that we do that which is good and right for others and ourselves. Values can also be behavioural, such as courage, initiative, and teamwork. These more easily can directly influence behaviour, especially when they are tied back to community.
We need values that emerge from the heart of our community. This allows us to share in them and act accordingly together. They bind us to each other, even if we do not necessarily agree with each and every aspect of how they might play out in our lives. They compel us to resolve conflict and solve problems together, to weave a narrative from yesterday to today to tomorrow, to define who we are and what matters to us. A community without values is like a ship without a rudder. If we act without reference to our values, then we become a hollow organisation whose work and achievements have lost their meaning. If we cut corners or break our rules, inevitably, we must come to terms with the fact that we have cheated ourselves. We can pretend for a while, but in due course, we must confront the reality that intention, action and results that do not align with ethos (what we know to be good in how we live our lives) mean that have not done the right thing along the way.
What is inherent within this concept of values that emerge from community is that we must do more than adopt similar values to those with whom we share a community, we must also value the community itself. We must adopt a value for community. Part of this means that we understand that all communities come together to share opportunity, resources, success, hardship – a myriad of different circumstances. The temptation will be that communities will seek to equate community with sameness, compelling members to be someone or something who they are not. There is a balance to be achieved here. People may well take on the character and competencies of those around them. They may well adhere to the rituals and habits of a shared culture. Yet a community without diversity is a community that lacks the capacity to change. That which is different may challenge us at first, but it also allows each of us to grow in aspiration, experience, agency, voice, and resource. If we have a value for community, therefore, we must treasure not only that which we share in common, but also the diversity that allows us to become that which we were meant to become.
And so, when Our Practice is deeply informed by Our Purpose and Our People, we gain the satisfaction of knowing that our results are what we have earned through the realisation of our values. Whether we win or lose (and we will do both), we will know that what we have done is right.
AN INSIDE-OUT PROCESS OF DEVELOPMENT
How is it that we can prepare ourselves to be successful in and for a world which has increasingly high expectations that we will use our imaginations to find new and better solutions to problems? It is clear that lack of effort will never get us to our goals. Yet what might be even more constraining to us is rigidity of thought, an unwillingness to go beyond the status quo and a reluctance to contemplate what we might become. It is very important for us to cherish our heritage. Nonetheless, we need to be very clear about the difference between essential, honourable traditions and those past practices which should always be open to reinterpretation and reformulation to suit the needs of the present and, most importantly, the future. If our habits become a prison from which we cannot escape, then we lose the capacity to embrace the possibilities of the future. If we are well-prepared for the world that was, and are not ready to meet the challenges of what will be, then we will fail to achieve our goals.
How many of us will be prepared to discover the potential for enterprise and initiative that lies within each of us? A process of education and encouragement needs to operate throughout our community: The Pathway to Excellence. This must start on a personal scale with each and every one of us. All of us should come to realise that there is little point assuming that someone else will come up with a good idea; we all need to use our initiative to become the authors of our own destinies and then to seek to contribute to the flourishing of our communities and the futures of others in a positive fashion. This process begins with an honest appraisal of our own strengths: who am I? What am I good at? What can I do? And then we should consider the team around us: who else is on my journey? What are they doing? What are their strengths? Where do I fit in? We should contemplate next our aspiration to serve – what needs to be done? What works? What doesn’t work? How can I find a new way of fulfilling people’s needs? How can I best serve others? Finally, we should seek to identify our calling: how does my work contribute to the fulfilment of my sense of purpose? How can I connect my service to the betterment of others around me? Whose am I?
This process of asking questions that take us on a journey from me to you to us is in essence inside-out. It is a model of human development that has purpose at its heart. We do not take this journey in an easy straight line. We jump back and forth between these questions through our lives. The questions we ask of ourselves are powerful. Sometimes to answer them we search deep and discover an inner sense of who we are, and who we may become; this is our mark as a person. Other times, we try to fulfil the expectations of others; this is our measure as a person. And so, through the course of our lives, as we express the civic character of belonging, the performance character of potential and the moral character of doing what is good and right, we wrestle. We wrestle with both leaving a mark and measuring up. This is how we form character. This how we show who we have been, and who we are becoming.
As we do this, though, it is important that we rely on our presence in the inter-connected networks of the world around us to help us to be well. Wellbeing is how we experience health and happiness in the world. Our well-being, how well we feel, is influenced by our health – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual – our satisfaction with the lives we are leading, and the sense of purpose and connectedness we have. Our character is directly affected by our wellbeing; how well we are is so very important to how we live our lives and who we are becoming through all of the social relationships and educational processes, the journeys towards character we experience on The Pathway to Excellence.
When we set our goals, therefore, we must be mindful not only of enterprising thought, but also of the personal qualities we will need to see the challenges of our inside-out development through to the best possible outcomes. We must recognise the opportunities and gifts we have, whatever field we choose to pursue. We must be courageous and pursue our aims with tenacity and creativity. We need to be ready to perceive prospects that others have not yet seen, to try things that have not been done before and to have the resolve to see things through to a successful conclusion. We need to have a vision for the future and to work out ways to achieve this. We need to give ourselves options and back our judgment. At the same time, we also need to be prepared to work out an alternative or even a whole set of alternatives when an unexpected obstacle appears. Sometimes things will go wrong and when they do, we need to make good decisions about pausing, regrouping and trying again. And again and again, if need be.
Thus, armed with a purpose for our humanity, values for community, and the inside-out process of growth we might apply our vocation to see through to what a problem really needs (as opposed to simply adopting “the way it’s always been”), as individuals, teams and as a whole community. In this way, we might give ourselves, through our sense of purpose, the best chance of an exciting adventure and a happy future. Go for it!
LOCATING OUR SOCIAL PURPOSE IN OUR LIVES
In the end, we believe that everyone benefits from:
- Identifying and understanding their purpose, people, place and practice – how you align your way of life with your values to create vocation
- Adopting an ethical approach towards your personal branding – how you can build a reputation for doing what is good and right according to your core beliefs and moral code
- Working through the best way to gain appropriate social recognition – how you make specific choices that will build your standing in your community in an honourable fashion
- Locating their vocation through their social impact – how you set and achieve goals that will bring benefit to the lives of others in accordance with your sense of social purpose