Purpose, Person Centred Planning, and the Power of Intentions

20/09/2022 - sara.dewar@nhs.scot Purpose, Person Centred Planning, and the Power of Intentions

This guest blog by Steve Coulson was written for the September 29th 2021 event ‘What makes the impossible, possible? The power of a shared purpose, that’s what.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I learned about Person Centred Planning over twenty years ago and developed a passion for this approach. It was a paradigm shift, leading me to encounter every person I worked with, not as a person with a learning difficulty/disability, but as a fellow human being replete with gifts, strengths, and resources. The planning was always grounded on listening intently to what dreams were in people’s hearts and over many years I witnessed the difference this could make to peoples’ lives. I went on to develop the Big Plan with my friend Heather Simmons, and the people I have worked alongside in that process, further underlined the truth that; everyone has hopes, dreams and passions and at the heart of all of these, lies the question, ‘What is my purpose?’ The centrality of meaning and purpose to individual wellbeing and the human condition is unarguable.

However, it also demonstrated that planning to fulfil purpose was much more than goal setting: targets and highly detailed strategies were not always that helpful. When my friend Alexander eventually plucked up the courage to share what was truly in his heart – that he loved the idea of being a superhero, it was the richness of his vision and why it mattered to him which propelled him on a life journey that has led to him owning his own consultancy company, speaking at the Scottish Parliament, and winning the SCLD Social Impact Award last year. In short, I have come to appreciate the power of vision and purpose which is based on intentions, rather than goals.

As part of the leadership team at Thistle, I am drawn to these experiences when reflecting on how we transform our organisation into one in which everyone shares our purpose of an inclusive world where ‘Life is for Living’.

How does the vision and purpose of an organisation truly become shared and develop into what Peter Senge described as a ‘common caring’?

I know what rarely works – the classic model of a management away-day which develops a lovely vision (perhaps with graphics) which is then cascaded down the organisation and a highly detailed Strategic Plan is worked up with goals and KPIs for everyone. Rather, Senge wisely reminds us of the importance of an individual’s personal visions in turn reflecting on the organisational one to create something new, emergent, and more powerful. At Thistle, we believe that the traditional organisational structures cut across the best of shared purpose intentions and so we have taken the first baby steps towards developing a self-organised model of working. As a Team Coach, I’ve been privileged to be deeply engaged in this work. It is not easy, but we believe that early signs are hugely positive.

Decisions being made closer to the supported person and more quickly. Relationships within the Team and with families deepening. Staff empowered to use their initiative to come up with creative answers to thorny problems.

In this climate, the possibility of an organisational purpose truly becoming everyone at Thistle’s purpose – ‘our purpose’ – seems genuinely within our reach. This journey, to understand what Frederic Laloux calls ‘evolutionary purpose’ presents another wonderful opportunity for us to transform theory into practice. Our sincere intention to create an organisation which truly walks the person-centred walk which truly lives and breathes its purpose.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose”

-Victor Frankel

Our thanks to Steve Coulson for this blog written for the September 29th 2021 event ‘What makes the impossible, possible? The power of a shared purpose, that’s what.‘ The event was part of the Project Lift Community Digital Series 2021/2022 supported by Kaleidoscope our community partners.

Steve Coulson

All information regarding our contributors was correct at the time of publishing.

Record your learning
5 mins
What is this for?

Click this button to record your learning in the Leading to Change app. If you have a profile in the Leading to Change app you now have the ability to record any learning showing this button. If you do not have a profile you can register with a TURAS account or create one for free.

5 minutes and 00 seconds till you can record this learning activity

We have estimated that this resource will take 5 minutes to complete. Once the timer below is complete you will be able to select ‘Record your learning’.

Leading to Change logo
Explore your potential with the Leading to Change app
Wellbeing Hub logo
Visit the National Wellbeing Hub for resources on how to stay well
Skip to content