It is, of course, impossible to focus on two things at once. Focus implies a single point – not two.
Perhaps this is why it has been so tempting for businesses to focus on profit at the expense of so much else, and for public sector organisations to focus on, often, over simplistic targets.
At the other end of the scale you have idealists who would prefer that we focus on higher matters.
The reality is that to focus on either at the expense of the other is limiting.
If we focus on stuff at the expense of meaning we will be unfulfilled. If we focus on meaning at the expense of stuff we will be unsustained.
In my understanding, whether personal or organisational, our “mission” is the stuff that sustains us. This is about putting food on the table, living in a comfortable way, having the freedom to access enough of life’s pleasures and enough to avoid financial stress.
“Purpose” is about meaning, it is our spiritual “why?” It is what motivates, inspires, engages and excites us.
The plain fact is that to sustain anything, satisfactorily over time, we need both.
As we have so clearly seen, over and over again, when we focus on mission alone, the lack of spiritual fulfilment makes it very difficult to include the concept of “enough”. We end up spinning wildly out of control as we desperately seek fulfilment in a place where it does not exist.
On the other hand spiritual seekers who neglect their physical needs can end up bitter and cynical, or dependent on those who have taken the other road.
So, if we cannot focus on both and we cannot focus on either, what can we do?
It is difficult to make “purpose” a consequence of “mission” – although there is the option of making purpose subsequent to mission. Make your fortune and then spend it on your purpose – Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, for example.
However we can design our business or income so that our mission is a consequence of our purpose.
The advantage of doing it this way around is that all of the inspiration, motivation, dedication and energy of pursuing our purpose can contribute to our mission as well.
A good friend of mine is discovering that his purpose is to redesign our societies financial systems in a fairer and more sustainable way. The energy, focus and dedication he has to this purpose is awesome. I would not bet against him delivering on this purpose and achieving a very comfortable “mission” along the way.
The future is:
Temporal and spiritual
Mission and Purpose
Left brain and right.
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