Last weekend, I facilitated a working session at the San Francisco Purpose Summit to explore this idea. I was curious what it would be like to have purpose be the central experience of the American people. To begin the exploration, we divided into teams and answered these 3 questions:
- How does my personal mission intersect with that of the purpose of United States of America?
- What would it be like if a sense of purpose was the driving force of the experience of every US citizen?
- What political economy and culture would pull for, nurture and support every American in discovering and living their purpose?
The results revealed that we are already in action, working towards the fulfillment of America’s purpose, that the vision and felt experience of a purposeful country were easy to access and inspiring and that there are a few key structural shifts in our political economy and culture that support this vision. Before we dive into the results of this working session, I’d like to share some assumptions for why an American Purpose Movement needs to not only be explored, but should be the top priority of the United States Government.
- This is an important conversation because I believe that the United States does have a purpose, but is failing to live up to it.
- This is an importation conversation because purpose is a best practice for individual and collective flourishing.
- This is an important conversation because change is not only possible, but a core feature of the United States Government.
Let’s explore these assumptions in greater detail:
Assumption #1 The United States is failing to live up to its current purpose. I believe our current purpose is “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, and yet the experience of most Americans is that of poverty, subsistence wage slavery, resignation, vice and distraction, with:
- Real unemployment of 23%. (Shadowstats.com, 2018)
- 51% of American children live below the poverty line. (Southern Education Foundation, 2015)
- 70% of the American workforce is disengaged at work. (Gallup, 2014)
- 78% of the American workforce lives paycheck to paycheck (CareerBuilder.com, 2017)
- African American women make $.63 for every dollar made by a white man. (American Association of University Women, 2016)
- Most Americans have no savings, with real inflation of 9%. (Shadowstats.com, 2018)
- The average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes of non-work time per day glued to a screen. (Nielsen, 2016)
- The United States has the largest prison population in the world. (International Center for Prison Studies, 2018)
- The United States has become a de facto oligarchy. (Gilens, Page, 2014)
- The United States has dominated planetary diplomacy and governance since the end of WWII. Under the leadership of the United States, our planet has endured the loss of 58% of the world’s wildlife in the last 40 years (World Wildlife Foundation, 2016), as well as the rise of extreme weather, climate change, and the loss of numerous cultures and languages.
Assumption #2 Purpose is a best practice for individual and collective flourishing. The Science of Purpose has revealed that when individuals awaken their purpose they:
- Have higher incomes and more wealth.
- Are 63% more effective leaders.
- Are 64% more likely to be fulfilled.
- Are twice as likely to learn something new each day.
- Are 4 times as likely to be engaged.
- Are 5 times more productive.
- Live 7 years longer.
- Are more likely to exercise and engage in preventative care.
- Have higher levels of memory and cognition.
- Are regarded as more attractive.
- Are 31% more likely to experience being in love.
- Have more pleasurable sex.
- Are 50% more likely to be civically engaged.
- Are desirous of diverse community.
- Have higher GPA’s and graduation rates.
Assumption #3 The United States of America is capable of evolution. From the start, the United States of America has been an experiment. Our Founders built change into the system, structuring the 3 branches of the federal government to balance America’s diverse political interests, while allowing for its evolution. They guaranteed a free press, such that our collective failings and possibilities can inform that evolution.
This structure empowered the Emancipation Proclamation, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Worker’s Movement (40-hour work week, child labor laws, OSHA), the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, Affirmative Action, VA, EPA, Social Security and Medicare, Americans with Disabilities Act, and numerous laws and Constitutional Amendments protecting the rights of the historically disenfranchised, e.g., African Americans, LGBTQ, etc.
I regard these assumptions as valid, and from this place a few exciting questions arose:
What if we regarded the discovery and ability to live one’s purpose at work a civil right?
What if America has had a deeper purpose all along - to awaken human potential at a heretofore unimaginable scale?
If every American had a relationship to their purpose what future could we create?
Group 1 explored the question: “How does my personal purpose and mission intersect with that of the purpose of United States of America?”
They surfaced that they each are in action on projects that express the purpose of the United States / address its failure in fulfilling its purpose, e.g.:
- One person is a journalist writing a book on bridging together the feminine and masculine, weaving together a vision that addresses this separation in our politics, economy and culture.
- One person is working on a project that explores the connection between our individual psychological fragmentation (not knowing, accepting and loving ourselves fully as individuals) and the collective sense of separation from each other (polarization, xenophobia).
- Once person is working on a project to scale best practices for communication and cooperation realized in small communities to our organizations and culture, to foster a more whole culture and country.
Group 2 explored the question: “What would it be likely if a sense of purpose was the driving force of the experience of every US citizen?”
They revealed a vision for the felt experience of this new more purposeful America, e.g.,
- People are more engaged.
- We hold institutions accountable.
- We nurture purpose exploration in K-16 education.
- We have access to all the information we need to live our purpose individually and collectively.
- We have a just society and economy.
- We parent ourselves, realizing ever greater levels of purpose awareness and expression, and nurture the purpose of our children.
- We see each other not as gender, race, sexuality, age, religion or political party, but as souls, seeking to listen and understand first before judgment.
- We prioritize connection over distinction and achievement.
Group 3 explored the question: “What political economy and culture would pull for, nurture and support every American in discovering and living their purpose?”
They offered a number of reforms that would support this vision, e.g.,
- Education reforms nurturing self-awareness and creativity.
- A robust social safety net that would care for everyone in need and give Americans the freedom and runway to make their highest contribution in a purpose-driven career.
- A taxation system that created country-wide flourishing and a more equitable distribution of resources.
- Redefining success in corporations, whereby they have a purpose, stakeholder orientation, nurturing a long-term generative contribution to the environment, their employees and community.
- A true democracy, nurturing the contributions of multiple political parties (vs. two party system), eliminate corporate lobbying and campaign finance, repeal Citizens United, such that 1 person equals 1 vote, end gerrymandering, mandatory voting.
Of course this group was not a representative sample of Americans, nor able to capture the full felt sense of a country on purpose, nor did our list of systemic reforms feel comprehensive or immediately actionable. But it is a start.
We saw that the possibility of purpose-driven country was already alive in our work, that it felt good to envision our country realizing its purpose and that hope is not lost. We can do this, as we have done countless times before, such as when we rapidly mobilized to defeat Hitler, pulled ourselves out of the Great Depression and ensured Civil Rights for all Americans.
I’m also left with the question, “Is our current country purpose sufficient or do we need to update it? What if we redefined our “God-given, inalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” with a 2018 understanding of best practices for human flourishing and governance?
- What if “Life” meant the right to free and clean air, water, food, housing, healthcare, K-16 holistic education (purpose discovery, mindfulness, compassionate communication), healthy and resilient watersheds / bio-regions, walkable, bikeable, nature-immersed town centers?
- What if “Liberty” meant the right to emancipate ourselves from foreign sources of meaning like parental, social, economic and religious definitions of ethics, propriety and success, and we sourced our identity, ethics, lives and careers in our individual purpose, all empowered by a true and highly functioning democracy and free press?
- What if “Pursuit of Happiness” meant the right to fulfilling, purposeful work?
If our purpose meant these things, I believe we would know and love ourselves as soul, see only the soul in others and stand for each other’s greatness.
What are your thoughts? Are you committed to a more purposeful United States? If so, please leave your comments below.
About the Author
Brandon Peele empowers leaders to awaken their purpose-driven leadership. He is a Certified Purpose Guide (TM), author of Planet on Purpose (2018), co-author of Purpose Rising (2017) and The PURPOSE Activation Blueprint (2015). Brandon works with professionals and executive teams from organizations such as Apple, The Smithsonian Institute, Tesla, Johnson & Johnson, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Illumina, Zeiss, Sapient, Morgan Stanley, Google and the United States Marine Corps. As a leader of online purpose courses, Brandon has guided thousands of people from over 50 countries to awaken, embody and lead with their higher purpose. You can learn more about Brandon’s work at BrandonPeele.com.