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The Power of Purpose

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By Jonathan Milne, Managing Director of The Learning Connexion

First in the TLC Super Powers series

The most valuable super powers are already yours.

You can learn how to turn these powers into something real – they’re far more important than entertainment in comic stories.

The most alarming thing is that many of us have been taught habits that limit our potential. Our family, schooling and community may work in good faith to reduce our chances to thrive.

It might be worth thinking about whether anyone has talked to you about your ‘purpose’ or whether they thought of this only in terms of careers, jobs or income.

For my part, I did well at high school but didn’t have a clue about a job or career. I applied for a studentship that meant I would be paid to go to art school and become a teacher.

The plan crashed when I experienced a life-threatening bout of pneumonia.

At the time I thought that pneumonia was extremely bad luck. Actually it was good luck because I realised that a university art school was never going to fit my own creativity.

It was extremely stressful and I became depressed. My stint at university seemed like a total failure and I was required to go to Teachers’ College to avoid having to repay the government for the studentship.

Teachers’ College turned out to be a kind of salvation. I was encouraged to be creative and got excited about teaching even though some of the training was in primary schools that were just as bad as university. I went away with ideas and experiences that slowly incubated and became a real sense of purpose. At first I had no idea what was brewing. It takes time. In my case, about 15 years, although I had no one to help me make faster progress.

In 1988 I advertised an art workshop and there were six brave enrolments. I was taught by my first adult students. Their real goal was to find something beyond art. We gradually invented a program called ‘Creativity - Thinking for a change’ (TFAC). Decades later it is still going and it still works.

The Teachers College magazine was a forerunner this column.

Thinking for a Change helps students to identify the focus of their creativity and then take a practical step towards it.
The catch is that many of us have been taught to deliver the ‘right answers’, learn the ‘right skills’ and ‘get a real job’. These things are okay provided they are interwoven with our sense of purpose and for many that includes our creativity.
‘TFAC’ is more about paying attention to actions than words. We look for signals of excitement. If people say that they want to be rich, we ask them what they’d like to do with their wealth.

Often the answer comes in disguise. If someone says that they enjoy surfing, writing, travel or photography, they might be identifying a clue. Anger can be a source of inspiration. Might your future have something to do with your response to big problems such as pandemics, starvation, inequality, climate change, children’s health, etc.). It’s a matter of paying attention to signals and then shifting into a discussion that might open the way to a practical step forward.

In my case, long before Thinking for a Change, I realised that selling my art prints might be a first step. I decided to try door-to-door selling. For a shy person this was an awful challenge and a great learning experience. I got enough money to scrape by and I learned a lot about
what is crudely called ‘marketing’.
It didn’t matter that the door-to-door approach wasn’t sustainable. It boosted my confidence to try new possibilities.
Sooner or later you discover things that ‘work’. I connected with the mood of the times and eventually created ‘pop’ posters that were popular and did well in shops. The posters weren’t an answer – they were a step.

Each of us finds something different – some fast, some slow. Good guidance and support can shorten the time! This is why TLC exists.

Meanwhile, what can you do for yourself?

Put aside the big question of ‘purpose’ and reflect on any experiences that have had an enduring attraction.
Relate to your senses. Feeling, seeing, tasting, hearing and smelling are starters (there are plenty of others that you can check on the web).

Senses take us straight to experience and might be a whole lot more important than your marks in an exam.

If a particular experience lights you up, is there any way that it might translate into ‘purpose’?
For example, there are techie whizzes who combine mechanical knowledge and empathy (‘feeling’). Possibly their purpose is to help non-techie people manage the bewildering range of gadgetry that seems to change all the time.

There’s no rush. Let it tick over in your mind and pay attention when an ‘attractor’ reveals itself.

Let me know if you have questions. If you’re patient, pay attention to the super powers that will follow in this series. There will be endless opportunities.

All the best


Meanwhile, you can view my video on the same theme:

Episode 01: The Power of Purpose - YouTube


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