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Central Purpose in Life February 27, 2009

Posted by Beth in Parenting, Personal.

Around 3 weeks ago I announced on my econ blog that I was taking a break to “regroup.”  The trigger for this was some very helpful feedback I had received after posting on a new group econ blog, simply Capitalism.  The comments made me realize I had gotten very far away from the original purpose for which I had created Wealth is Not the Problem.  In doing so,  I was sacrificing quality for quantity and allowing myself to be distracted by the chase after a fantasy of recognition and influence.  (I am still working on an explicit formulation to reclaim my original purpose for that blog. When it is complete, I will post it over there.)

I have learned a lot about during this break, and am pleased with the recentering that I achieved.  I’d like to share some of what I learned here. I see this blog as the place where I connect with people on matters of life, homeschooling and parenting–and my recent discoveries touch deeply on all of those areas.

In thinking about what it was I wanted to accomplish with my econ blogging, I first had to settle how that fit into my overall life goals and plans. An incredibly helpful tool was the construction of my Central Purpose in Life.  I mentioned this before, but I would like to reference it again as it has been so helpful in bringing me order and peace of mind.

For more details on what it is, see “What is a Central Purpose in Life?” by Burgess Laughlin on his personal blog Making Progress.

Here’s what I have come up with:

My Central Purpose in Life (long version) is to create and maintain a loving, nurturing environment in which to raise my children and assist them in preparing to live independent and happy lives.

My Central Purpose in Life (short version) is to create and maintain a loving and supportive home for my family.

I really had to wrestle with whether or not being a mother and homemaker was a sufficient “central purpose” for me.  Although my work supports my husband’s ability to earn money, and I personally do not (currently) earn any, I could not get away from the idea that a central purpose ideally should be connected with productive work in support of one’s life.  Up until 6 years ago, I was both the primary homemaker and the primary income earner—-so it nagged at me that  “mother and homemaker”  wasn’t quite worthy enough to be my CPL. When I finally came up with my formulation of the actual “job description” (see CPL long version) and outlined all that I needed to know and attend to in order to accomplish that work, I had a much greater appreciation for the scope and difficulty of the task–and the realization that it is indeed fully worthy of a CPL, although one that has a built in time limit.  (A nice reminder of the importance of bringing into sharp focus key concepts which we tend to hold as fuzzy approximations.)

So what am I producing? I am working to produce an environment of safety and support during my children’s dependency. This includes creating and maintaining a home which serves as a place of rest and recharge for my husband in order for him to more easily and enjoyably work to support us and achieve his own highest values as well.

The next phase in my discovery process was to flesh out in greater detail just what it means to have a “loving and nurturing” environment. I will share my thoughts on this next post.


1. mossoffawpcom - March 1, 2009

Yea! Looking forward to hearing more.

2. Kevin McAllister - March 16, 2009

This is great for you. The clarity of a purpose makes problems and conflicts of value that were seemingly unresolvable very simple. I’ve seen this time and time again on scales that are less broad than the CPL.

Did you use any particular method to arrive at your CPL? Was it simply thinking in concentrated sessions? Were there any particular standards you employed? Maybe it was just introspecting while seeking your values?

I am trying to work out this out for myself and while obviously you can’t help me with content, if you have time to discuss your method it may prove valuable to me, and maybe even to yourself.

3. haynesbe - March 16, 2009

What a great question!
I think I was able to identify my CPL by looking at the decisions I had made in the past where important values seemed to be in conflict. In looking at what I had decided in each of those isolated cases, I was able to draw the conclusion of what had been my operating CPL without ever having explicitly defined it as such.

One example of such a decision was when the challenges of homeschooling increased enough that I was no longer able to devote enough time to advancing my knowledge and skills as a physician. I had already cut back on work beyond what was actually comfortable. One of them had to give. After analyzing our finances, we decided we could make it without my income. Looking at how I had repeatedly chosen spending time with my kids over spending time on medicine made it clear which I valued more highly.

More recently, I have become more serious in expanding my knowledge of economics. I looked into taking a course on microeconomics at the local community college– I eventually want to become more active in promoting free market economics, but to be effective, I have much yet to learn. When I really thought it through, I saw that it would require more time than I was willing to spend away from paying attention to improving my relationship with my teenage son, struggling with my daughter’s educational and budding-teenage needs, and being available to assist my aging in-laws. Torn between stepping up my activism in economics and minding the home front, I just sat down and thought about what was most important to me, and decided the goal of economics could wait.

During this more recent thought process, I read Burgess’s post and decided that being more explicit about defining my CPL would help not only with future decisions, but in actually achieving my purpose. I had been getting there bit by bit, but in a haphazard way.

I think my two main methodologies were brainstorming and then working to put it in writing. The first generated the raw data. The second forced me to organize and refine it. Also, it was very helpful to have 2 important values present in direct conflict for my limited time and then have to choose between them. Making that decision as explicitly as I could helped to bring into sharper focus what I valued most and why. (I also have the advantage I that the more successful I am with my current CPL –raising my children to independence– the sooner I will be able to devote more time to economics.)

4. Kevin McAllister - March 26, 2009

Thank you for your response, it has helped me tremendously.

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