What is your purpose type?

Some people are lucky in that they find a meaningful purpose early in life, and live their life guided by that purpose. I wasn’t one of those people! I like most, went through two-thirds of my personal and work life without a clear purpose. Like most I went through life doing what was expected, achieved what I needed to achieve, but always thinking that there had to be something more. That feeling of something more is satisfied by seeking to identify a meaningful purpose or purposes that you can use to guide your personal and work life activities and achievements.


In the book Purpose – The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis the author identifies four key moral ideas or concepts that lead to what type of purpose we may choose. The books perspective is from leaders of successful organizations, however, the ideas or concepts apply to any individual.


The four key moral ideas are:

  • Discovery
  • Excellence
  • Altruism
  • Heroism

Each moral idea or concept provides the ultimate justification for subsequent action.

With discovery the discoverer seeks out actions that are chosen by the discoverer to move forward into new ideas or new places (both conceptually and physically).

The excellence purpose type has the pursuer of excellence seeking out actions primarily for the fulfillment of the action (in the most elegant way) for its own sake. Elegant fulfillment means different things to different people – some would say simplicity is elegance.

With alturism the altruist seeks out actions that better the well-being and happiness of others (well-being has a broad definition that will be explored in other posts).

The heroism purpose type seeks out actions that focus on demonstrating achievement.

Over time the moral idea or concept that guides your purpose compass may change. The change will result in many changes of purpose. I have been a discover, a pursuer of excellence, and someone strongly focused on achievement, and not so much of a altruist. I continually migrate my primary attention from one to the other and it is reflected in my actions. I’m getting more inclined to follow the altruism path as I get older (which seems to be a general trend for many these days). This web site and many of the featured initiatives identified on this site are indicators of that path.

<<Originally posted December 12, 2009 on Bill’s old site>>


  1. I was reading an article in the September 2011 issue of Alberta Venture. The article The Purpose-Driven Company by Steve Williams had a couple of key/useful points related to organization purpose:

    Any organization can determine its purpose. When you do, you’ll gain a competitive advantage.

    So how do you go about repurposing your organization? The first step is to rip the mission statement off your lobby wall and toss it in the recycling bin – odds are it was made up of recycled language anyway. In order to have relevance with your people, you have to avoid the kind of language that typically makes up boilerplate mission statements. I’m not advocating that you layer overblown, fanciful statements on top of your existing mission. Rather, cut to the core of the benefit you bring to market. Simplify what you’re all about. And make sure everyone in your organization knows it. Not just by rote, but with enthusiasm.

    — Originally commented on September 26, 2011 on Bill’s old site.

  2. I thought the point made by Clayton M. Christensen in his book How will you measure your life? is very powerful in describing the power of purpose in business:

    “In the long run, clarity about purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, the five forces, and other key business theories we teach at Harvard.”

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