The Better Angels of Purpose

Putting an intention out into the world

The purpose of poetry is to remind us

how difficult it is to remain one person,

for our house is open, there’s no keys in the doors,

and invisible guests come in and out at will.

Czeslaw Milosz, from Ars Poetica

We can’t choose all our work or projects. We can choose all our moods. What we can do is allow the best chance that ‘good spirits…choose us as their instrument.’ The vehicle for such luck is being conscious of purpose in our work and being prepared to prioritise the beneficial when it is possible.

My work leading a team transforming a healthcare fintech has been very demanding over the last year. The demands of that work and my many other roles in and outside of work is one reason why this blog has been a lot quieter than I would prefer.

Towards the end January, I was struggling with the return to the pace of work and the ramp up for the year ahead. On reflection, I realised I had begun to work for the work’s sake. There is so much to do and so many demands it is easy to turn up each day and be busy. To borrow Milosz’ idea, it can be easy to let ‘the invisible guests’ of our life’s demands move in and out at will without struggle.

I knew I needed to do better and needed to reconnect with my purpose in my current role. I asked myself a simple question ‘why did I choose to do this work?’ We all have choices. We can all choose at any time to do different, even if we can’t see that from time to time.

Reflecting deeply on that question helped me to reconnect with my purpose in the work:

  • to enable my team to realise its potential and to experience the success they deserve; and
  • to create for the team’s customers effective partnerships and solutions that improve and grow their businesses

From that simple statement of purpose, I was able to refresh my plan on the priority work that I needed to do with the team in 2023. I was able to start to reshape my time and how I worked to better align to this priority work.

I have changed my weeks since that realisation to focus more heavily on coaching and development of people across the team, an activity I love but I was losing in the pressures of doing. I have redoubled my efforts to encourage the team to take ownership of the culture that they want to see in our business. We have also been able to significantly increase our customer focus and the attention on priority issues for our customers. With all these changes it has become easier to see what I always knew. I can’t do it all. The success of a team depends on the contributions of the whole team and the systems they use. Focusing on adding value in these areas is much more valuable than what i can do individually.

Things still come and go changing plans but a clear set of priorities and a focus to my efforts gives me a chance to spend more of my time in the company of ‘good spirits’. Have a clear intention to work on more purposeful work has made me happier and more effective. Not surprisingly, it has also helped the team’s continued transformation.

What I’m saying here is not, I agree, poetry,   

as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,   

under unbearable duress and only with the hope   

that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.

Czeslaw Milosz, from Ars Poetica

One thought on “The Better Angels of Purpose

  1. I too have been reflecting a lot about what work means to me now. It’s changed or morphed in some way. I wasn’t expecting it too but it did. Sometimes it surprises me. Initially it scared me. After all, without work, what am I meant to be doing with my time? 🤔

    Purpose is a funny thing. I’ve started to think it’s not related to an outcome. Or an output. Or a “thing”. People ask me “yeah but what are you going to do with all this TIME that you have?” Much of it I have spent reading books, learning French, delving into poetry by Sylvia Plath (although I’m finding this utterly difficult), playing golf, going back to learning the ukulele, running errands for my family and parents and then I realise that I’m really happy. There’s nothing wrong with that! So my purpose for now is to just be. To just enjoy each day as it comes. To not pressure myself to do anything I don’t think I should be doing. To make do with what I have.

    Last week I applied for two roles. One was a Virtual Facilitator for a Not for Profit and the second one as a casual librarian.

    There was a strong realisation that the type of work I’d pick up again in near future should not have a technology focus. In fact I want nothing to do with anything online. I think I’ve been put off online communities and virtual meetings for business forever. You can include anything related to VR, AR, Metaverse, Social Media, AI. (I simply don’t care anymore).

    I realised this only after I submitted for the first role. That was a wake up call for me but worrying at the same time when you realise your entire professional life is now up for question. What have I been doing all this time in my corporate/business life? Why doesn’t it attract me anymore and it leaves me cold?

    So yeah it’s important to understand and accept what work means to you. For me, it’s the realisation that I want a change. I’ve got tons of skills and experiences that I can put towards anything. If it means getting out of the type of work I did before to maintain my sanity in the constant change, then so be it.

    I’ve rattled on. It’s time to go back to my novel….

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