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I’d been working off and on with Vic Strecher for nearly 14 years. I knew him to be a popular Prof. of Public Health at the University of Michigan, the founder and visionary leader of HealthMedia, a health improvement company later acquired by health behemoth Johnson & Johnson, and an all-round good guy. Nothing, though, quite prepared me for what was coming next.
In 2010, Vic lost his nineteen year-old, younger daughter, Julia, to a heart condition she’d lived with all her life. After that, I didn’t see Vic for a while. Then, one day he showed up with an early draft of a book he was working on. “David, I’ve written a graphic novel about purpose and I’d like you to look at it.” So began the next episode in our long working relationship and the turning over of a new leaf for me.
Vic’s graphic novel, On Purpose, is a remarkable tale of loss and renewal. Written from the heart, it’s a book that is by turns fantastical, educational, inspiring, tragic, funny, and life-affirming. It’s a fascinating read that leaves most readers thirsting for ways to integrate greater purpose into their daily lives.
To help bridge this gap between learning and living, Vic worked with digital agency, Enlighten (where I’ve worked for 17 years), to conceive and build an interactive tool readers could use to deepen their experience and understanding of On Purpose by putting some of the principles and insights of the book to immediate, practical use.
Working with a four-person team (creative director, designer, front- and back-end engineers), Enlighten adopted a back-to-the-garage, highly agile approach to developing the overall app experience—from feature set to look-and-feel to programming language and cross-platform functionality—the team relentlessly pursued the goal of creating a highly useful, deeply engaging, digital experience that would be unique in form and function while remaining intuitive to use and, in Vic’s words: “a constant delight to interact with.”
Version 1.0 of the On Purpose app begins by walking users through the linear process of choosing 3 to 5 life values; personalizing those values to bring greater individual meaning to each; rating how deeply held each of those values are for the user; and, finally, crafting a concise, actionable purpose statement. Once the user’s purpose has been articulated, users are encouraged to bring greater awareness to their daily alignment with that purpose. Of course, it’s possible to have more than one purpose at any given time, and one’s purpose can shift many times over a lifetime.
The On Purpose app helps each user “Chart Your Day,” giving them the opportunity to record how aligned they’ve been with their purpose and then record 5 key behavioral elements, sleep, presence, activity, creativity, and eating (S.P.A.C.E.) that are known to impact one’s energy, willpower, and ability to stay on purpose. Finally, a written journal entry can help users recall what was going on any given day (i.e. Why was I sleeping so poorly back in January?). After ten entries, the app will begin to offer insightful feedback, drawing correlations between purpose alignment and behavior, for instance, at the moment, presence and mindfulness appear to be helpful in my staying on purpose.
Vic’s individual purpose of reducing nihilism in the world by helping large numbers of people live with more purpose and meaning in their lives is also the core purpose of the non-profit DungBeetle.org. It’s our goal to reach as many individuals and communities around the world as possible with the message and method of living on purpose.
And what about that turning over of the new leaf I spoke of earlier? For me it's been a renewal and deepening of my love and caring for my family, an opening up of my heart towards a broader sense of community service, and a recommitment to live as openly and creatively as possible in the moment. The On Purpose app, based on my daily inputs, has suggested that mindfulness and presence are important supportive elements towards ongoing alignment with my purpose, so a welcome return to meditation practice has recently become part of my daily ritual. The arrival of a new year always brings with it opportunities for introspection and growth. So, bring on 2014. This year I have a pretty good compass in place for the journey ahead.
*You can check out the hard- and soft-cover book print versions athttp://www.dungbeetle.org/buy-the-book/. And don’t forget to download the free iOS On Purpose app on iTunes. A web-based version of the app is also available via http://www.dungbeetle.org/discover-your-purpose/about-the-app/.