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Reconnecting with our purpose and passions...

Public service organisations and the many passionate and able people working in them can easily lose sight of what matters to their service users as they become focused on activity rather than impact, chasing targets and ticking boxes. They become detached from their purpose as summit fever, management by the numbers, and reputational management prevail. In these conditions, wilful blindness becomes a logical and sometimes necessary personal and organisational coping mechanism.

Many people in public service feel increasingly detached from the original purpose of their work. Demoralised and desensitized, the constraining processes they work within strip them of the ability and capacity to display empathy and compassion to those they work with and those they want to help.

Public servants have become servants to processes, as policy-makers and regulators seek to manage what can be measured rather than what truly matters. Services lose sight of the original needs they were created to meet; to protect, to care for, to help, and to serve. Good, capable, well-intentioned people find themselves trapped in poor systems that force them to make questionable choices, without knowledge, or the time to fully understand the impact of their actions. Actions that can cause harm, and worse.

Large public service institutions quickly become like living organisms, self-perpetuating entities which appear to act in their own interests. They can at times seem like the monster that kills its maker, beasts created with good intent, a clear and sometimes even noble purpose, which then ignore and harm us as they morph into self-serving creatures. We create them to serve our needs and we end up serving theirs. 

But things don't have to remain this way. The Japanese art of Ikigai suggests that the sweet spot of each of our existences is located at the intersection of what we are good at, what we love, the purpose and passions we have, and importantly what the world needs, and on a very practical note, what we can be rewarded, paid for. It is a concept I think many of us can identify with and an incredibly helpful tool to use in re-aligning ourselves and our organisations, with our intended purpose and original passion.

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