The Purpose Timeline Workshop

Or: “why I co-designed a workshop on purpose, and how it works”.

In November 2015, when I left Chile to head back to Europe to get involved in the collective response to the Refugee Crisis, I experienced the most deep and challenging period of self-doubt of my life.

I can hear you thinking: “How come? The only fact that you have decided to head back and take action is pretty driven…”

Well, that’s another thing I have learned past winter: you can decide to follow your intuition, act for what you believe matters and take a leap of faith believing that things will get clearer, but that doesn’t mean that you feel like things are clear already.

It took time for me to see my multifaceted background, spanning from professional volleyball to Fine Arts, from Tech Startups to Social Entrepreneurship, as a resource and not a limitation. Questions like “OK, so… what do you do exactly?” or “when are you going to finally focus on one thing?” always challenged me, till I managed to identify the beauty of being a “hybrid”… but that December, for some reason, I felt overwhelmed and I just didn’t know direction to go, both professionally and personally.

Luckily enough, when you are in doubt and you somehow manage to raise your white flag, some people come around and manage to light up your path a little. To me, one of these people has been Davide “Folletto” Casali.

He came to me and asked me to have a 1:1 meeting, something between a coaching session and a workshop, to try to figure out things together with a model he had in mind. The session had such a positive effect on me, and I found it so simple yet impactful, that I felt the need to share it with others. And that’s how Davide and I decided to team up and work on the model together, to spread it as a tool to get a clearer vision on personal and work goals, and put them in perspective.

We called it “The Purpose Timeline Workshop“.

Just like he says in his posts about the model:

People are often asked or expected to have one clear purpose driving them. We know that this is just not feeling right, or possible, for many of us, for a multitude of different reasons.

“The Purpose Timeline is a workshop designed to allow you to identify the multiple values, passions and purposes that drive you, and to identify how to build what’s missing to connect all of them to your current situation. It’s about mapping out what you really want in your work and life, and connecting the dots to design the right strategy. It’s about fulfilment and balance.”

As mentioned, the exercise was originally designed for 1:1 sessions with a coach, but I became increasingly interested in exploring the possibility to do it with groups:

what would be the dynamic in a “less focused on one person” environment?
What if being with others, and not being able to dive deep in a 1:1 dynamic, would actually create a less stressful condition for each person, leading them to reflect and pull out thoughts more easily?

Once I started running both, individual and group sessions, I could immediately see how different the two dynamics are. Of course none of them is “better” or “worse” than the other. They are just different, and it’s up to each person to pick the one that fits better his or her preferences, as much as it’s very important for who drives the exercise to guide people in making this choice.

In the group sessions, every learning and breakthrough becomes a collective one: barriers and divisions get teared down by seeing others sharing very similar fears or doubts, and by exploring these feelings from different perspectives the learning experience gets enhanced.

In the 1:1 sessions of course everything is more tailored, personal and proportional to one’s needs and focus. Many people who participate to group sessions ask for 1:1 follow-up sessions or coaching.

One final note:

on March 2016 we started to spread the Purpose Timeline workshop, and we have decided to leave it open source: every person interested in running it, anywhere in the world, will be able to do it and will have all our support in doing it.

Here you can find the step-by-step process described by Davide “Folletto” Casali in his blog, intenseminimalism.

Contact me if you’d like to know more about this model (we can send you the blueprint!), or if you are interested in a 1:1 or group session! 🙂

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Elegant solutions and human behaviour

You never know when inspiration is coming your way, till it hits you.

I was cooking while a colleague of mine was watching Numbers, a quiet old TV Show (it started in 2005). “What’s that?” I asked. “The guy solves crime cases using math and algorithms” she said.

I stopped for a second. It definitely sounded like the type of nerd stuff that I could totally fall in love with.

I came closer to the laptop to check it out, just in time to hear one of the characters come up with a groundbreaking description of one of the most frustrating issues I experience working in Social Good with a pragmatic and design-driven mindset:

“Charles, you are a mathematician, you’re always looking for the elegant solution.

Human behaviour is rarely, if ever, elegant. The universe is full of these odd bumps and twists. You know, perhaps you need to make your equation less elegant, more complicated; less precise, more descriptive. It’s not going to be as pretty, but it might work a little bit better.

Charlie, when you’re working on human problems, there’s going to be pain and disappointment. You gotta ask yourself, is it worth it?


Switch “mathematician” with “designer” and we’re all set.

As a Fine Arts student and a creative, I know the power of beauty. I live by it. Not the superficial beauty — the more pure and profound one, made of sense of proportion, vibrance, elegance.

I know its ability to inspire, to move, to cut your breath, to make you see things you couldn’t imagine before, to touch your very centre and lit it up, to give form to ideas. Beauty, in all its forms, has always moved humanity, creating the space and time to honour and celebrate what ultimately inspire and elevate our spirit. It’s the hardest thing to describe, yet the one we try to express the most.

But, as Plato would put it, beauty is a characteristics of forms. And forms are the imperfect result of pure ideas manifesting into reality.

That Number’s quote resonates so much because I often find myself stuck with trying to make a solution be beautiful (sometimes even confusing beautiful with perfect), instead of fully focusing on delivering a solution that is, quoting Numbers again, “not going to be as pretty, but (that) might work a little bit better”.

I find important to be moved by beauty, to follow our inner call to shape a better reality around us, by making things that elevate us and improve our lives. But it has to be balanced by effectiveness.

But to make this work, we have to solve the fact that often people see “beautiful” as opposite to “ethical” or “right“.

Somehow, we have become stuck with the idea that “good” must be “humble“, “poor“, ever “rough“. Maybe it’s a projection of the Catholic idea of humility? Let’s think about any communication content on Social Good: whenever it’s “too beautiful” or “too perfect”, there’s always someone turning up his nose.

I think the time has come to solve this dispute.

If we want solutions to work well, of course we should focus on making them be effective… first.

But if we want solutions that engage others, that inspire to act differently,that trigger subtle but powerful educational mechanisms, that reshape unhealthy behaviours — then beauty and elegance must be part of the equation, together with effectiveness.

We naturally reject anything that make us feel uncomfortable, even when they are the best for us. And we love things that make us feel comfortable, even if we know they are bad for us.

What I’d love to see more and more in Social Good is solutions that keep the eye on being effective and impactful, but that also work as triggers to change things on a much wider and much deeper level.

Solutions that are not just right and effective, but also inspiring.

As Buckminster Fuller perfectly stated:

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.