Larger than Me Purpose

This blog entry was written by our guest blogger, Dan Cross, M.Div., L.A.D.C.. Dan is currently the Executive Director of Absentee Shawnee Counseling Services, a clinic in Oklahoma City, with plans to open one in South Tulsa County. Dan has worked with co-occurring disorders since the early 1980’s. Cross has had over 25 years experience working with the Serious and Persistent Mentally Ill, the Chemically Dependent, and people with Co-Occurring Disorders. He has presented at a number of conferences in Oklahoma and nearby states.

Please note that the opinions presented in the article are that of the author and not necessarily the opinions of RHN. RHN chooses to publish articles and share individual sites to evoke discussion and show all options, ideas and beliefs.

My reaction to the proposed subject was manifold, from recollections of the multi-year best seller “The Purpose Drive Life”, famous for redeeming a would-be rapist and murderer, to the variety of motivational speakers and life coaches who flood the market with their myriad prescriptions.  Since Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we have lined up to purchase personal planners, PDAs, and now smart phones and iPads.

We have attacked planning with methods and technology and made it easier than ever before to plan and track our progress toward those plans.  We have heard and responded to the statistics demonstrating that successful people write down their goals and objectives and plan to obtain them.  Strategic planning has dominated the book and workshop market for decades.

We got the cart before the horse.  Planning without purpose is like target practice without a target.  Just no telling what you are going to hit.  Perhaps it is this very practice that has given rise to the prevailing postmodern predisposition with which we are presented today. This existential nihilism tends to be skeptical of traditional rules, forms, and values in a quest for that which is authentic, real, genuine.  Generation Y is not entirely void of purpose, rather they tend to crave and hunger for it.  Money, career, status, job security are insufficient.  There must be more.

I am reminded of a recent conversation with a young man who just left one of the top engineering schools in the nation while doing quite well.  When I asked what he wanted to do his response was, “I was thinking of going into social work.”  My response was telling as I went into Reality Therapy mode, counting the cost vs. the benefit. Surely he did not know what he was getting into or giving up.  None of that mattered to him.  He was seeking purpose, something that made his life meaningful.  He did not seem to locate that quality within the purview of engineering, regardless of its promise of income and job demand.

While it is easy to dismiss this as merely the idealism of youth, I suspect the existential nihilism of the postmodern worldview robs one of that which is essentially human, a purpose, a life-meaning.  Whether it be to benefit humankind, save the planet, or other larger than self pursuit, as social creatures we humans seem to crave a “larger than me” motivation.  With such we are remarkably resilient as stories from various historic trials like the Holocaust, World Wars, and catastrophic events have demonstrated.  Without such we, as individuals and as societies, seem to become depressed, lose creativity, and innovation, as in the Dark Ages.

How we respond to Generation Y’s quest for purpose is a purpose in itself and will determine how the world copes with global issues such as the economy, environment, and climate change.  That purpose is motivated by the need for an older generation to make a contribution to future generations’ survival and quality of life, a “larger than me” concept. Economically, we cannot keep spending more than we produce or we mortgage their future. Environmentally, we cannot keep using up natural resources without replenishing, conserving, or finding alternates.

Once we find purpose, a “larger than me” thing, we can find commonality. Congress has not found a “larger than me” thing in quite a while. In commonality we can find unity.  With unity of purpose there is a sense of “team”, the team management books tell us.  And once we get to that point, they also tell us, we can effectively plan.  We have the planning thing down. We need a “larger than me” purpose, individually and corporately.

Elana Clark-Faler
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