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religion, business

Last updated: Jun 6th, 2011


I find purpose to be crucially important in nearly all aspects of life; it is a concept that crops up in places as dissimilar as religion and business.

Purpose is hard to define; one dictionary definition of purpose is "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.". Other, slightly different definitions are "an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.", or "determination; resoluteness.". Dictionary.com lists diverse "synonyms" for purpose: job, role, task, aim, ambition, design, end, goal, intent, mark, meaning, object. These are all very different words.

Purpose references a goal, intention, or principle that is on a larger spatial or temporal scale. Purpose is not just a human concept: many natural systems exhibit purpose. For example, evolutionary adaptations have the purpose of survival, and in a practical sense most adaptations can be given more fine-tuned purposes in terms of the various activities and functions an organism needs to engage in to survive. Nearly all living beings exhibit goal-directed behavior of some sort. In conscious or intelligent systems, purpose is associated with intention or goals; in non-conscious systems, it is associated with function or role. Purpose must exist within some sort of feedback loop that somehow evaluates and selects something on the basis of fitting with the purpose. Purpose is also immensely important in religion; religion can be looked at as a search for the ultimate purpose.

Purposelessness or Lack of Purpose:

It is also possible that actions that normally might have a purpose can be carried out without a purpose, for example, out of habit. A lack of purpose can not only waste time, effort, or resources, but can be destructive, and can even facilitate evil. Even when purposelessness does not directly lead to evil actions, it enables evil to more easily establish a foothold. Purpose is important in (arguably a prerequisite for) morality because morality is based on the ways in which our actions affect others, and being aware of how our actions affect others requires having purpose in our actions.

In business, purposelessness is often a major cause of wasted resources. When actions are carried out out of habit, or because of rules or policies that are not questioned, resources, including both human effort and other resources, can be wasted, either doing work that is less than optimally productive, or in extreme cases, doing work that is useless or counterproductive. Keeping the highest sense of purpose in the front of your mind, and briefly checking in with it before beginning each task in your day, can help identify and stop these purposeless actions.

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