Acting with purpose

A few days ago, Pete Reilly created a post: How Do We Change? where the comment box has morphed into a conversation. My post yesterday: Flying over familiar ground further developed a point I was making on his blog about our sabotage of change efforts. Pete then added a wonderful comment where he said:

I don't think I want to change the "urges that come out of nowhere"...that's just me being a human being. I want to change how I deal with those urges:
1. I want to be aware of them and not have them be so automatic that they are invisible.
2. When I am aware, I want to deliberately choose what to do next. I can break an old pattern or decide that the old pattern might be most appropriate for this situation.
3. I want to practice being deliberate about my new behavior because it will feel uncomfortable for a while and it will be easy to fall back to old "flight plans".
4. I want a purpose bigger than myself to help sustain me on my new journey because it is taking me to new and unfamiliar terrain. I may want to turn back' but if I know that I am not just shortchanging myself; but my family, my school, my co-workers, or my students...I will keep on working for the larger good.

I pondered Pete's strategy of "bringing awareness to urges" and realized how we can be aware of our many urges differing and changing for the better.

Destructive urges: Some of our urges are harmful to ourselves and others. We act destructively when we're feeling desperate, awful about something and afraid of what will happen. Our awareness is limited to an immediate need to stop feeling so dreadful. We act out our frustrations and make the world a worse place to live.

Conflicted urges: With increased awareness, we discover urges to handle our destructive urges. We act to acquire self discipline, make conscious choices, and control those dark impulses. We struggle with the conflicting urges to advance or regress, to respect or retaliate against others, to be helpful or harmful and to grow or stagnate.

Reliable urges: With even more awareness, we discover urges to collaborate and reciprocate with others. We join together in explorations that resolve inner conflicts, deepen mutual understanding and empower disenfranchised participants. We realize these reliable urges come as naturally to us as the autonomic processes of our immune, digestion, pulmonary and circulation systems.

Transformational urges: With comprehensive awareness, we discover urges to live our purpose, as Pete also concludes. We leave the ground of our past history and those struggles to control ourselves. We change our story. We live inside a different world that we intend to bring forth for others to experience.

We incorporate the awareness realized from our interdependence in networks to be here for a particular purpose that makes countless differences beyond our control. It occurs to us how our journey prepares us to make a gift of ourselves. We see the difference we make is the difference we are. We find meaning in the moment and act accordingly. We come from a place that allows all urges to provoke greater awareness, choice and change.


  1. Tom,
    Here is a wonderful poem on change. I find that poetry opens a new path to not found in the mind; but the heart.

    Autobiography in Five Chapters
    By Portia Nelson

    1) I walk down the street.
    There is a huge hole in the sidewalk.

    I fall in.
    I’m lost…hopeless.
    It’s not my fault.
    It takes forever to get out.

    2) I walk down the same street.
    There is a huge hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I’m in the same place again.
    But it’s not my fault.
    Still, it takes me a long time to get out.

    3) I walk down the same street.
    There is a huge hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it.
    Still I fall in…it’s a habit.
    My eyes are wide open.
    Already I know where I am.
    It’s my fault.
    I climb out quickly.

    4) I walk down the same street.
    There is a huge hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    5) I walk down a different street.


  2. Thanks Pete!
    I love this poem and have used it as I mentor entrepreneurs. That hole in the sidewalk could be our destructive urges pictured beautifully as a pitfall :-)

  3. "I want to change how I deal with those urges:"

    Is this 'want to change' just another urge from terra incognita?

    I quote Steven Pinker under a heading The Illusion of Control:

    "Consciousness turns out to consist of a maelstrom of events distributed across the brain. These events compete for attention, and as one process outshouts the others, the brain rationalizes the outcome AFTER THE FACT and concocts the impression that a single self was in charge all along." (my caps)

    The Brain - A User's Guide
    Time Jan 29 07

    What's the realationship ( i like the typo :) between consciousness & awareness.

    & thanx for the thinking

  4. For materialists and reductionists, there is no evidence in "synapses firing" of a real identity, intentions or interpretations. Likewise there is no evidence of a butterfly in successful caterpillar growth or an oak tree in a healthy acorn. Evidence is accurate, but devoid of perspective, as every detective knows when solving a crime with misleading and missing clues.

    I agree with Pinker that "being in control" is a grandiose illusion. I disagree what we are without patterns in the maelstrom or incapable of choosing how we pattern the flux of neuronal firings. I'm proposing we are "hard wired" to urges and only act them out when we process them sequentially, one at a time. When urges are juxtaposed by parallel processing, we have enough awareness to choose between urges. When we add memory of getting our own conflicting urges affected by others, other urges emerge into our awareness (consciousness = same thing) to collaborate with others. As we gain experience with reliably affecting others, other urges arise to confidently change our world. This kind of development in our awareness is as unforeseen and out of control as the oak tree emerging from an acorn or the caterpillar morphing into a butterfly.

  5. well we definitely do seem to be wired for pattern recognition or perhaps divining or maybe shuffling.

    Hey that set of ideas/notions/concepts/things looks weird/pretty/attractive/substantial I think I will call it the universe. What are you going to call yours?

    Are we talking about the philosophers' Hard Problem here - how subjective experience arises from neurological processes?
    Apparently consciousness emerges from these processes.

    I'm not so sure about there being no evidence of butterflyness in caterpillars & oakiness in acorns. There is a powerful amount of information coming out of genetic studies - all that beavering away at the minutiae of life.


  6. It's great to hear from you again. I think I'll call all this "ecologies". That word captures lots of the evolving dynamics, emergent outcomes, reliable mechanisms, phases of growth and organic, non-linear science.

    Quantum physics is suggesting that our neurological processes are getting informed from "beyond the mind" of an individual. This in turn suggests that our subjective experiences are co-created and emergent from community processes.