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LeaderQuesters on Purpose, 9-12-2007

To begin what I am sure will be a series of stimulating and powerful discussions in LeaderQuest this year, Laurie Blank, the LeaderQuest Coordinator, posed the question, "What is purpose?" Students broke into smaller groups to discuss the question further. Some of their responses were:

  • Purpose is the bigger picture, what you believe you can do when you wake up in the morning
  • Purpose is the foundation which can be built upon
  • Purpose is the meaning of its [some object or being's] existence
  • Purpose is a drive to get something accomplished

At the end of our discussion Wednesday, we were left with several important questions that are worth revisiting:

  • What does it mean to be meaningful?
  • Is there such thing as a "good" or "bad" purpose? If so, how do we differentiate between the two? If not, how do we judge actions to be good or evil?
  • What is the value of discussing purpose? Alternatively, what can we do with a definition of purpose?

Many great philosophers, thinkers and leaders have thought extensively about these problems. Albert Camus' book The Myth of Sisyphus addresses the question of meaning in life. Modern day philosophers like Peter Singer (who came and spoke at the U a couple of years ago) writes very accessibly about morals and how we might come to conclusions of what is morally good or bad.

In deciding what we believe, it helps to look at these problems from different perspectives. A great novel that really gets at the idea of perspective is The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

As we begin to explore questions like: "What is purpose?" we will start to see that answers are not so easy to come by. Why is it so difficult to find answers to these questions? Why might it be valuable to ask these questions?

Participants can also reflect on questions such as: Who are the “leaders� in the room? Were there people that dominated conversation? People that didn’t speak much at all? Why is this? Is it a problem? Is it something we should address? If so, how? What role do the people that don't speak play? What role should they play?

To get even more out of LeaderQuest, I would challenge students to keep a daily journal as they explore these questions. Journaling helps to learn and relearn from our experiences. We are able to remember and recall more of what we learn and we are better able to formulate our thoughts and ideas. For those that are interested in public speaking, journaling is an excellent way in which to become more articulate about your thoughts, ideas and convictions.