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Journeys of Purpose

Journeys of PurposeFrom Dr. Therese Madden, Human Services Program Director:

I recently published a book called, Journeys of Purpose, Inspired by Wisdom, Fueled by Imagination, which is now available on The book is about the journeys of individuals who have found purpose in their work and my work on it began with my own curiosity about how people find satisfaction in work and their process for developing their own understanding of purpose. The book is based on amazing research conversations that I had with extraordinary (and yet ordinary) people who live rich lives imbued with purpose.  Their shared revelations were diverse from one another and yet contained common threads of wisdom that were quite different from what I Gibranwould have anticipated.

One of my favorite quotes is one I took a picture of many years ago at the Kahil Gibran garden in Washington, D.C. This well-known Lebanese poet he tells us that “work is love made visible.” In the context of my research, I defined work broadly as activity that we engage and the individuals with whom I spoke include both their paid employment and other activities – parenting, relationships, volunteer activities – in their reflections. They also include insight about the way that their relationships with God influence their journeys.
I am deeply honored that people took the time to talk with me about their journeys. You may recognize the voices of some who shared their stories, which are each individually quite different, but which together inspire with their wisdom.
Recently, my friend Jill in New Zealand shared an article that relates to this topic.  It takes a less serious tone (some might find it downright irreverent) and poses provocative and interesting questions to ask ourselves when searching for life purpose.  By Mark Mason, the article is titled, “Seven Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.”  I found them intriguing and would love your input about whether they are valuable.
Here’s a bit more of a description about Journeys of Purpose, Inspired by Wisdom, Fueled by Imagination:
Knowing that we each have a purpose and living our lives in fulfillment of that purpose provides us with a sense of confidence, of satisfaction, and of direction that guides the development of our values, the decisions that we make about our lives and the way that we conduct our relationships with others. Often, people struggle with the process of discerning life’s meaning and many make great ongoing efforts throughout their lives both to unravel the depths of that purpose and to align their actions so that their values, their decisions, and their work represent a consistent manifestation of their authentic being. These stories share wisdom from those who have engaged this search, seeking inspiration from their satisfaction and joy, insight from their challenges, and understanding about the nature of a journey of purpose from the uniqueness of their individual experiences. The implications include insight for others who seek greater purpose in their work. The stories inspire, inform, and provide the foundation for future action by creating new worlds full of joy and satisfaction.

What insights have you gained about your own journey thus far?  Do you consider yourself to be on a Journey of Purpose?  If so, what have you learned about yourself through your journey?  How does your wisdom inform your imagination about your future?

Leadership Friday


Happy rainy Friday!  Hope that you have cozy plans for the weekend and that you and your loved ones stay safe!

Today’s topic for discussion (please share your thoughts!) relates to leadership vulnerability.  Blogger and HR Exec Carol Anderson writes about this in the context of authenticity, trustworthiness, and more.  You can read the entirety of her blog post here and what follows is an excerpt to pique your interest:


How is a Leader Deemed Trustworthy?

“How is a leader deemed trustworthy? By being authentic. By being real. By being truthful. Always.  How is a leader’s ability trusted? By demonstrating that the leader can face the biggest challenges with competence, confidence and integrity.

Why don’t more leaders see this? Why don’t more leaders do this?  One hypothesis is that leaders don’t feel that they have permission to be vulnerable or to be wrong.

In 1991, Chris Argyris, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, published an article titled, “Teaching Smart People to Learn.” In it he explored why some of the smartest people he studied were unable to learn, unwilling to make mistakes, and defensive upon receiving feedback. He said,

“There seems to be a universal human tendency to design one’s actions consistently according to four basic values: 1. To remain in unilateral control; 2. To maximize “winning” and minimize “losing”; 3. To suppress negative feelings; and 4. To be as “rational” as possible – by which people mean defining clear objectives and evaluating their behavior in terms of whether or not they have achieved them.”

He called this the “doom loop” – successful professionals fear failure, and do anything and everything in their power to avoid it, thus losing the valuable opportunity to learn and grow.

Humble InquirySeeking Humility

Edgar Schein, the father of the concept of organizational culture and MIT Professor Emeritus, recently published a new book called “Humble Inquiry.” His premise – status and culture make speaking up to those in positions of power very difficult, so the individual in the position of power must ask. The asking must be done in such a way that it engenders trust, and the only way to do that is to be sincerely interested in what the other person has to say. In order to do that, the person in power has to allow him/herself to appear vulnerable to the lower ranking individual.”



What do you think?  Have you worked with leaders who have been able to model vulnerability, exhibit a willingness to learn, admit mistakes, and grow?  How do you demonstrate these qualities in the leadership roles that you assume?


Images courtesy and

Book Recommendation: The Power of Habit

habitOur first book recommendation of 2014 comes to us from Dr. Lillian Barden, who came to work one day last week very enthusiastic about it.   The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, is a New York Times bestseller.  Here’s the description:

“In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.”

Amazon also reports that it was named “one of the best books of the year” by the Wall Street Journal.  Thanks, Dr. Barden, for the recommendation!

Want to see other books recommended by faculty or students? Click on the “book recommendation” link under “categories” in the column on the right of this post.  Have a book you’d like to share?  Let us know… we love good book recommendations!

Image courtesy

Book Recommendation: Leadership

no titleI love book recommendations! This one came from Amarjit Dillon in class last night, after a discussion about leadership and how it is defined beyond role or position. This is such an important and empowering concept. Thanks, Amarjit!

The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life

This description is from the book link:
For more than fifteen years, Robin Sharma has been quietly sharing with Fortune 500 companies and many of the super-rich a success formula that has made him one of the most sought-after leadership advisers in the world. Now, for the first time, Sharma makes his proprietary process available to you, so that you can get to your absolute best while helping your organization break through to a dramatically new level of winning in these wildly uncertain times.
In The Leader Who Had No Title, you will learn:

• How to work with and influence people like a superstar, regardless of your position

• A method to recognize and then seize opportunities in times of deep change

• The real secrets of intense innovation

• An instant strategy to build a great team and become a “merchant of wow” with your customers

• Hard-hitting tactics to become mentally strong and physically tough enough to lead your field

• Real-world ways to defeat stress, build an unbeatable mind-set, unleash energy, and balance your personal life

Regardless of what you do within your organization and the current circumstances of your life, the single most important fact is that you have the power to show leadership. Wherever you are in your career or life, you should always play to your peak abilities. This book shows you how to claim that staggering power, as well as transform your life—and the world around you—in the process.   [Bold emphasis added.]

Book Recommendation

black painFrom Human Services student Darryl Redfield.  Thanks, Darryl!

The following description is from

Terrie Williams knows that Black people are hurting. She knows because she’s one of them. Terrie had made it: she had launched her own public relations company with such clients as Eddie Murphy and Johnnie Cochran. Yet she was in constant pain, waking up in terror, overeating in search of relief. For thirty years she kept on her game face of success, exhausting herself daily to satisfy her clients’ needs while neglecting her own. Terrie finally collapsed, staying in bed for days. She had no clue what was wrong or if there was a way out. She had hit rock bottom and she needed and got help. She learned her problem had a name — depression — and that many suffered from it, limping through their days, hiding their hurt. As she healed, her mission became clear: break the silence of this crippling taboo and help those who suffer.

Black Pain identifies emotional pain — which uniquely and profoundly affects the Black experience — as the root of lashing out through desperate acts of crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, workaholism, and addiction to shopping, gambling, and sex. Few realize these destructive acts are symptoms of our inner sorrow. Black people are dying. Everywhere we turn, in the faces we see and the headlines we read, we feel in our gut that something is wrong, but we don’t know what it is. It’s time to recognize it and work through our trauma. In Black Pain, Terrie has inspired the famous and the ordinary to speak out and mental health professionals to offer solutions. The book is a mirror turned on you. Do you see yourself and your loved ones here? Do the descriptions of how the pain looks, feels, and sounds seem far too familiar? Now you can do something about it.

Stop suffering. The help the community needs is here: a clear explanation of our troubles and a guide to finding relief through faith, therapy, diet, and exercise, as well as through building a supportive network (and eliminating toxic people). Black Pain encourages us to face the truth about the issue that plunges our spirits into darkness, so that we can step into the healing light. You are not on the ledge alone.”

Book Recommendation

wake up now book

Students in a current Human Services Senior Seminar course shared this book recommendation, echoing praise they said initially came from Dr. Patrick Arbore.  The following description and accompanying image are from, though for many of us, knowing that Dr. Arbore recommended it will be enough to pique our interest:

Live a life of peace, love, and happiness through spiritual awakening

In Wake Up Now, author Stephan Bodian–nationally recognized expert on meditation and spirituality and former editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal–reveals that spiritual awakening is not some faraway dream, or overly complicated to achieve, but an ever-present reality that is always available here and now.

Based on his own experience and over 30 years of teaching the direct approach to spiritual awakening, Bodian has broken down the awakening process into five overlapping, loosely sequential stages: seeking, awakening, deepening and clarifying, embodying, and living the awakened life. Wake Up Now guides you through every stage of the journey, from the process of seeking through the often prolonged and challenging process of integrating the awakening into everyday life.

Book Recommendation

I love book recommendations, don’t you?  This one comes from Jenee` Crayne, Evening Liberal Arts Major, a student in Marsha Pendergass’ Professional Writing class.  Thanks to both of you!

 Fermat’s Enigma, by Simon Singh

Take an intriguing trip through 2,512 years of mathematics. Whether you like math or not, this book is a fascinating journey through the evolution of our mathematical culture. Fermat’s Enigma is full of insights and drama: the Pythagorean Brotherhood, duels to the death, women masquerading as male mathematicians, and a theorem which evaded the most brilliant minds for 350 years. Simon Singh is a fantastic writer. He weaves the stories of many people and time periods effortlessly with wit, accuracy, and humor. I invite you to set down your prejudices surrounding math and take an adventure through time. At around 300 pages, Fermat’s Enigma is a fun and quick read, even if you say you hate math.