At CBBC, we believe there are some guiding principles or values that can help us build spaces and places where we can all flourish.We call this the Flourishing Framework®.
In the first half of this year, we will be looking at each of the six elements of the Framework® and how they contribute to a flourishing life, both individually and communally.
The elements of the Flourishing Framework® are all linked to each other in some way. In this article, we will be looking at purpose. What does it mean? How does purpose contribute to a flourishing community?
For CBBC, purpose is about an outworking of one’s innermost values.
It allows people to live an authentic life. This involves living in the reality that as human beings, we are all connected to each other.
Purpose looks at what motivates us, what we want to do with our lives and how we want our lives to contribute to the greater good of society. It has been said that much of Western society lacks purpose, especially when our lives are often defined through experience and status-seeking. Purpose goes to the very heart of who we are as humans.
An initial way to look at purpose can be vocation. Some people even refer to it as ‘calling’. This relates more to the individual sense of purpose in one’s life, but, as with all of life, it is of course also linked to the communal. To illustrate, the American author, Howard Thurman, has said, “Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It is an interesting quote because it implies (correctly I believe) that the individual is linked to the whole of society. It shows how our purpose in life, when we find it, directly impacts society. To quote the title of the book by John Donne, “No man (sic) is an island." This is in stark contrast to the statement by former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, that there is no such thing as a society. At CBBC, we would prefer the statement by Martin Luther King, who said that “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men (sic) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
Dr King had it right. All of life is indeed interrelated.
The question of purpose goes to what makes us more human, and what it means to be human.
It seems that we are wired for relationships. And when we find our purpose in life, it always has a direct bearing on how we relate to the world around us, both to those with whom we have close relationships and to those living in the wider world and even the non-human creation.
It is clear from this that the concept of purpose is not an easy one to grasp. It is somewhat intangible. And, while we have related it to the concept of vocation, it goes deeper than that. Purpose points to the question of “why?”. Why do we do the things we do? When the answer to this question aligns with our sense of meaning or spirituality, another aspect of the Flourishing Framework®, our life can become a powerful force for good in the world.
Our purpose is formed from our deepest values, developed through our upbringing as well as the people and experiences we allow to influence us.
A simple example to help unpack purpose is the person who opens a greengrocer. We can look from the outside and say, ‘their purpose is to run the shop.’ When, in fact, they see their purpose as providing the freshest produce for their neighbourhood. Over time, the value of providing fresh food may remain the same but the expression may change.
Despite all this, there is a question about whether the idea of purpose is a purely Western one. Millions of people throughout the world don’t have the opportunity to reflect on their values because they are so focused on survival and meeting their immediate needs. The work of CBBC deals directly with this. By helping people discover more of their skills, interests, and abilities through strength-based approaches to community development, CBBC is helping individuals and their communities realign their priorities and even explore the development of local, purpose-focused economies.
The ability to live out our core values allows us to contribute to the betterment of our own lives and the life of our community. The work of CBBC is helping communities foster these opportunities. At the Centre, we want everyone to be living a life of purpose, and in this way, contribute to their flourishing and the flourishing of their community.