Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Post I in the Task Cycle® Series: Establish a Purpose, Already!

    Today, we begin the first in a weekly series of posts discussing the Task Cycle® theory.  What exactly is the Task Cycle theory, you may be asking?  It is the underpinning of all of the surveys administered by The Booth Company, and it draws upon theories of learning, cognition, and motivation.  For example, each person in an organization is supposed to achieve goals set forth by his or her position.  In any role, a person must complete a series of tasks, which follow a logical series of steps.  These steps are what we have come to call the Task Cycle®

In every task, there are six steps (see diagram):
1.    Establish a purpose
2.    Lay the foundation
3.    Continue a sustained effort from a variety of resources
4.    Obtain feedback
5.    Monitor and adjust the process
6.    Reinforce performance of other contributors once you have achieved your goal

This weekly series will cover one section of the Task Cycle
® at a time.  This week, we begin with a simple question:  How does one establish a purpose?

Not so simple, is it?

According to some philosophers and great thinkers, purpose is essential to a human’s life.  Helen Keller wrote, “Happiness comes from fidelity to a worthy purpose.”  The medieval Catholic monk Thomas Kempis said that, “life without purpose is a languid, drifting thing; every day we ought to review our purpose.” Finally, Washington Irving acknowledged the importance of purpose when he said, “Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.”  Clearly, having a purpose is essential to the human condition.

So how does one establish a purpose?  

  • Figure out what needs to change.  In order to start the task cycle, there needs to be a task.  What needs to change in your life?  In your work place? In your relationships with others? Sometimes, it is easy to identify problem areas or skill areas where you may falter.  Other times, it may take an outside eye.  This could come in the form of co-workers, family members, or superiors, and can take the form of an informal talk or a 360 survey.
  • Understand your environment: One way to explore what needs to change is by understanding your life or work environment.  Understanding your family, your industry, or your organization and its products/services can ensure that your purpose is aiming accurately.  Make sure you explore materials like books, websites, “eccentric” thinkers, (we like to think of them as “visionaries”) or industry journals.  Listen to advice from those known to have good ideas, and keep current on relevant news and trends.
  • Create a positive purpose.  For example, “Improving my skills as a leader” is much different than “Not sucking as a manager.”  Stay positive! 
  • Be realistic.  Your purpose must fit your life and your industry.  It won’t do anything except frustrate you to establish a purpose that cannot be fulfilled.  Dream big, but within reason.  
  • Write it down. Putting anything in writing makes it that much more real.  When something is written, you are more likely to remember it and take it seriously.  And don’t just write it; write it in detail. 
  • Think about it.  Make sure you take the time every day to think over your purpose.  How will you work to achieve it today?  What obstacles could get in your way?  How will you overcome these obstacles?  It is vital to think about or discuss how your everyday activities relate to your overall purpose. 
  • Involve someone else. Involving others—be they family members or workplace team members— in setting your purpose as well as ensuring its execution can build trust and develop team building skills. It can be easy to ignore your purpose, but when someone else is there to cheer you on in the good times and push you during the bad, you will be much more likely to stick with it.
          Imagine that you are running a race.  You can hear the wild chanting of the masses of cheering fans on the sidelines and can practically feel their energy flowing through your veins.  Even though you have blisters the size of quarters and can barely put one foot in front of the other, you draw on their energy and positivity to dash across the finish line.  Now, imagine that you are running the same race—alone.  You are tired, sore, and struggling to finish.  How much harder is it to complete the race when you are alone versus when you have encouragement?  This someone could be a friend, a mentor, or a leadership coach; anyone that will keep you on the road to achieving your purpose.
Establishing a purpose is one of the foundations of the Task Cycle® theory.  Without a purpose, there is no way to continue your journey of self-development.  So take your time, talk to someone who can help, and create a meaningful and attainable purpose.  It will be worth it.

Update (6/28/2010)-- Here's another article written about finding your purpose  from Career Rocketeer for some extra reading.

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