The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. (Thomas Carlyle)

There is much written about finding your purpose Purpose if life.  Songs are written about purpose; self-help books are written about purpose; businesses are devoted to the concept; jewelry, leadership, among other things, all focus on purpose.

So how do you find purpose? How do you know what your are “supposed” to do in this life? How does that relate to evaluation? Finding your purpose can be really confusing. Purpose 2 Let me share a story with you.

I lived in Birmingham, AL in the 80s and 90s. Birmingham is the only place I have lived (and I’ve lived many places) where if you woke up on the first day of spring, EVERYTHING would be in bloom. Everything! In Oregon, spring creeps up on you (a wonderful experience, to be sure). In Minnesota, it feels like it is spring one day and summer the next (or if you are not lucky, winter, again). In Tucson, spring happens in February and if you blink you miss it (well, almost). So I was marveling one day around the first day of spring how wonderful life was and I had an epiphany. I conceptualized what were the three things I wanted to do in this life. I wanted to do good work. I wanted to be a good friend. I wanted to grow spiritually. (I knew that being a boss was not for me, even though it came with perks.)

I had just finished a doctoral program in program evaluation. I realized that I would be “in the trenches” a long time and would spend most of my career doing evaluation work (as opposed to teaching evaluation, researching evaluation, writing about evaluation). I saw that as my purpose. To do good work–good evaluation work.

So what does it mean to do “good evaluation work”?

As an evaluator, I am a member of the American Evaluation AssociationAEA logo . That provides me with at least an annual update for interaction with my colleagues (and friends) and skill building. (This year’s meeting is in Atlanta, more on that later.) It also provides many opportunities for me to learn (see the hyperlink above). It also provides me with a structure in the form of the Guiding Principles. Guiding principles  This is important because the AEA is NOT a policing body, rather it is an organization that provides guidance for its membership. (You can find the  Mission, Vision, Values and Governing Policies here. In addition to what the organization provides there is another body, independent of the AEA, which provides Standards for program evaluators. The_Program_Evaluation_Standards_3ed

I’ve talked about these two documents before. I will talk about them still. I believe that if an evaluator follows the Guiding Principles (Systematic Inquiry, Competence, Integrity/Honesty, Respect for People, and Responsibilities for General and Public Welfare) and the Program Evaluation Standards (and the standards sub parts) (Utility, Feasibility, Propriety, Accuracy, Evaluation Accountability, the evaluator will go good work.

Is this easy? No.

Is following these guidelines and standards worth while? You bet.

The profession is made better. Evaluators are made better. The world (hopefully) is closer to world peace. It certainly has provided me with purpose.

Speaking of world peace, Monday is the celebration of the US independence from Britain.independence-2. The US will celebrate the 240th anniversary of the independence then. There will be BBQs (with barbeque 2and without vegetarian barbeque meat) fire works and flags,fireworks clip art 2, paradesparade clip art and picnics picnic clip artand time with friends and family friends and family 2 .

Enjoy the holiday!

my two cents




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4 thoughts on “Purpose–we all need one.

  1. Too many books are now written about self development and “how to be a leader”, but I think it’s popularization. No one can motivate you so much as you will be stimulated with a real aim. Thanks author, good words.

  2. Emily, I agree that self motivation is key to moving forward. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. A few years ago I went through a mini-crisis where I tried to figure out my motivation/purpose – my “why,” as so many have put it. It’s a hard thing to do and constantly evolving … but even when I put a name to it (like you did with “do good work”) it’s still hard. It’s interesting to hear someone go through the same process.

  4. It is nice to know, Jim, that others struggle with purpose in their lives. I did find naming my purpose helped me stay focused on what was important to me in my work.

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