Socratic Dialogue on Purpose (July 14th 2020)

When we think about communication, we think about discussion, debates or arguments. It’s essential to navigate complex realities and on our learning journeys, in social situations and our relationships with loved ones.

True communication starts and ends with listening. 

Without listening, we are simply repeating existing thought patterns. We repeat the old versions of ourselves in the way we think, we talk to let them out and then we wait for the next chance to share our old thinking again. It is a repetitive cycle of thought addiction that releases endorphins – happiness hormones – every time it is completed again.

To break from these cycles, one of the methods we use is Socratic Dialogue. This method of communication creates a habit of listening with an open mind and an open heart. By practising deep listening, not simply repeating existing thoughts, we allow ourselves to learn and unlearn. We feel heard and leave our egos behind. We can emerge as new leaders, game-changers, and become hyper creative teams and communities.

Our Socratic Dialogue on Purpose

To fit with our theme for July, Canay Atalay, co-founder of Conscious Learning Tribe, facilitated a Socratic Dialogue on ‘Purpose’.  CLT Team of Rudy de Waele, Yuri van Geest, Primavera Salva and Michael Lane were joined by four beautiful minds:

Every Socratic Dialogue starts with the questions of the participants. The initial questions included “Why do we need a purpose?” “How does purpose change as we grow older?” and “Are leaders ready to shift from profit to purpose?”, we decided on:

Is Purpose something we can only know in hindsight?

Each of us began by sharing our experiences in relation to this question, listening intently and building on what we heard from previous speakers:

Rudy spoke about how his youthful purpose as a saxophone player transformed when he began to build a family, before seeking a new purpose in his personal and professional life: building a business in the 90s around the internet boom then realising that his calling lay in creativity and innovation. After a burnout, he used philosophy and personal transformation methods to analyze belief systems and move toward a more human purpose.

“Maybe my purpose was always to be a saxophone player because now I still want to play, but I don’t put it as a priority any longer. Now my purpose is to inspire and empower people to become the best version of ourselves.”

Christian reflected on Rudy’s changing purpose, saying that his has also shifted based on the people surrounding him. He suggested that purpose is often used as a rhetorical device and that when people state their purpose as humanitarian it is often driven by something more personal: being seen as helping people. As a fan of serendipity, he believes that you can only connect dots to unexpected things if you have a sense of direction.

“Ten years ago I couldn’t have told you that the reason I love building communities and social enterprises, was that I love connecting dots, connecting people and connecting ideas. So nowadays I would see my purpose as meaningfully connecting dots. But I can only do this at this stage. In 10 years I will probably rationalize that very differently.”

Eve considered Christian and Rudy’s experiences and how their focus was only clear in hindsight. She told the story of her corporate life, before building businesses to focus on her purpose of creating a healthier world. Then, she shared how everything changed when she was faced with her own mortality during complications of childbirth.

“I still love what I do. I go into companies and support them in finding their purpose, going from profit to impact and consciousness. But, in the end, all that counts are these living humans we gave life to and are responsible for. The intensity of my purpose got so much stronger with this life event and now it’s not just about opening new horizons but really encouraging people to drive more impact for good.”

Eshanthi pointed out a pattern across the speakers: their purpose seemed to be an intrinsic push combined with our own shaping experiences. She talked about purpose as something to motivate her every day and agreed with Eve that children change everything. She also raised that even jobs that do not fulfil a higher purpose can help to bring us closer to that purpose.

“I love Eve’s story because it really puts into perspective what is important to you, it separates your purpose from just kind of a reactionary urge or even something more ego-oriented. It’s actually harder to pursue, but maybe sharpens your ability to see those different choices that you’re making.”

Frank defined purpose as what it is we can do as individual human beings to leave our society and our world in a better place than how we found it. He picked up on Christian’s idea of connecting dots and spoke about finding purpose in what you are good at.

“Growing up I don’t know that I talked or thought about purpose, you did what you had to do in a given timeframe. Until at some point in your own journey you realize what you’re really good at, what helps you get up in the morning and what your passions are all about. And I think in finding those things they start to point you towards a purpose, and another journey.”

Michael picked up on Frank talking about purpose as “where I landed” and how it paints a picture of purpose as a result of a shifting journey, not something that comes from sitting and thinking. He shared his own story of what happens when a defining purpose ends abruptly.

“I was a musician. We were touring a lot around the UK and Europe. It defined me until it ended. That break between one concrete purpose and working out the next, it was really rough. It wasn’t until I found myself in another job, writing professionally – ‘landed’ as Frank would say – I realised that I was good at it. And I realised that I want to do this forever.”

Primavera identified with the range of experiences of the others: shifting purposes and crises around how we are creating a positive impact. She shared a similar childbirth experience to Eve and told the story of how she kept up her spiritual practice for 25 years while following a corporate career, before having a realisation and focusing on her true purpose.

“It’s not until a few years ago that I realized this is my gift and my purpose to help people see life through the experience of their soul. Not through their corporate meaning and not necessarily through their making money, but through their soul, whatever that is – every person is different.

Yuri approached purpose from a different angle. He spoke about intergenerational pain, that his purpose is to acknowledge the pattern of pain passed on by parents and from their parents, then break the chain for his own children and grandchildren. He shared how his purpose of connecting people professionally and through music comes from a new sense of awareness.

“I realized recently that it’s about connecting people with a vision with purpose but also to connect them among themselves. I was already doing this but with hindsight, you make it stronger and more explicit, so it’s easier to make it shareable and to deepen that purpose.

Canay closed the session by reflecting on everything that had been said and saluting the mothers who have gone through the rebirthing and reinvention process:

“To me, it looks like the mothers, the females, are going to lead the path of giving birth to a new world where we can all connect the dots. Start first with our authentic selves, then connect the dots outside to the facts and the data and connect with other people.”

She also highlighted how we are assuming that we are thinking and talking about the same thing, even in the basic definitions and basic questions. This act of going deep into our assumptions and into understanding each other through the art of listening is an essential tool in everyday communications and innovations.

Do you want to move away from closed cycles of addictive thinking and open up to new possibilities? Join us at an UnConference or one of our future Socratic Dialogues.

 If you want to  create a customised UnConference online event with your company/organisation or create/join a Socratic Dialogue with your team, contact us at We look forward to listening and co-creating with you!

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