Okay, this might sound a little counter-intuitive. But it seems that the only way to progress into an era in which conscious businesses play a central role, is to give up on our search for purpose.

Purpose, or meaning, has been extensively debated over throughout ancient history. And now finally, the topic penetrated the world of business and management thinking (it took a while, because we tend to think that when a bunch of people are working together (sometimes referred to as organisations), there’s no necessity for a higher purpose.) About time.  The archaic practices in which employees could be squeezed out or lured in for the sake of efficiency and customers seduced into buying stuff they don’t need should’ve become a closed history book chapter yesterday.

The question is whether we will ever find a credible purpose using the traditional means we’ve grown so accustomed to. Over the past millennia we Westerners have been outward-oriented and cultivated to find objective truth using minds to the premises of rationality. Especially in business, reason and empirical research are an expected prerequisite to back up decisions on important issues such as corporate strategy. After all, it is about our company’s continuity, decisions should be well thought-over and we shouldn’t rely too much on our gut-feeling, now, do we? Due to the revolution in the relation of humanity to its world represented by science and technology, calculative thinking is pervasive, and, in fact, we are on the verge of concluding that this is the only valid form of thought.

Calculative thinking is useful in its way, but operates at the surface. It is geared towards rational problem-solving and analyses and synthesizes its way into the future. But let me put it like this;

If you were to find purpose in your life, would you use a calculator to find the answer? Or could you ask somebody else to calculate it for you?

Besides calculative thinking there has always been meditative thinking. Meditative thinking is useless in carrying out practical affairs, and calculative thinking fails in giving rise to a sense of the meaningfulness of life.

Since we are losing touch with the nature of meditative thinking and tend to identify thought itself with its active, manipulative form, we are falling deeper into a sense of the meaninglessness of the world; if the world is nothing but what it appears to be in calculative thinking, a collection of dead and meaningless objects, it is empty and hollow for the meaning-seeking being.

Purpose is to be found within

Purpose is like being in love. Nobody can tell you that you are or should. You just know and feel it. Finding purpose is about going back to the origin, that source of energy from within. It can only be understood by looking away from it, or, in other words, by not thinking about it. Let go of it, and allow your unconscious to do the talking. This is the paradox of intention.

Reversal of intention

You desperately try to recollect that idea you just had the other day, and you know that it is hidden somewhere in your mind. But you somehow fail to retrieve that specific bit of information into your consciousness and can’t help but feeling frustrated.  Then, as you let go and have stopped clinging to the search, the idea suddenly pop back into your head.

The more a man tries to demonstrate his sexual potency or a woman her ability to experience orgasm, the less they are able to succeed. Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.

Astronomers use a technique called averted vision to view faint objects in the sky. Gazing away from a particular star system will allow the astronomer to view it more brightly using his peripheral vision.

So, let go of the search for purpose and listen. You might be surprised what you’ll find.

If thinking is what distinguishes man’s nature, then surely the essence of this nature, namely the nature of thinking, can be seen only by looking away from thinking*

SOURCES

  • Shaw.  The paradox of intention. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • *in Heidegger. Discourse on Thinking. Harper & row Publishers, New York