Agile · Decision making · Ideals · Other topics I care about · Principles

Living with purpose

I spend a lot of time thinking about purpose.  Sometimes of course I’m too busy to raise my eyes above the whirlwind of tasks buffeting me through my day; on days like those (and there have been a number of them in the past few months) the only purpose I can focus on is simply getting through the mountain of responsibilities in front of me efficiently so that I can catch my breath and survey my work with more perspective.

But when I’m not completely swamped with urgent things to get done I regularly ask myself why I’m doing what I do.  What are my goals or what am I trying to accomplish?  What is the reason behind the tasks on my plate, and what should I do (or avoid doing) if I want to achieve my goals?  I don’t like drifting through life any more than I enjoy frantically rushing through it; I want to know that my actions and choices are part of fulfilling a larger purpose and making a unique contribution.  And if I discover that something I am doing is not contributing to that purpose or moving me toward those goals, I want to find a way to stop doing it.  As much as I can I want to use my time and talents to further my goals, not simply to get things done or make to the weekend.

This quest for living purposefully is part of why I prefer to focus on strategic and big-picture issues rather than spending all of my time on tactical, short-term, or reactive activities.  This can be a difficult struggle because so much of what I do as a Product Owner (similar to what some people think of as a Scrum Master but I’ll talk about that in a different post) is tactical and reactive as I respond to the questions of the development team, the support team, and the sales and marketing teams.  I have to actively carve out time to step back and plan (with the Product Manager) for the future of our product and to groom the backlog so it stays focused in the direction we want to move.

The importance I place on living with purpose also impacts how I think about this blog.  I’ve talked before here about why I started blogging in the first place, both why I enjoy it and what I’m hoping to accomplish through blogging.  Again I expect to write more about this soon but on a regular basis I stop and ask myself whether or not this blog is accomplishing what I want it to do.

Lots of people have written about the tyranny of the urgent (check one brief article about this here if you want to) or the value of living with a clearly articulated sense of purpose (Stephen Covey is one of my favorite authors on that subject).  From my perspective this fits well with the Agile Principles supporting the way my company seeks to develop software (check the link on the side panel for more on that).  Sometimes life and work can keep me too busy or preoccupied to focus on pursuing my purpose, but I wrestle against this when I notice it happening.  I wish it were easier to face every day and every task with this in mind, but in truth it’s not that simple.

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