For Linkedin – Ray Stone

PRIMAL: The Pattern Language that Reveals Human Purpose

Another article on motivation hit my news feed this week, describing ways I could re-energise myself on days I felt discouraged. Maybe you too have moments—or months—when you feel lethargic, uninterested in your to-do list, or in much at all. At times like that, you might tell a friend you’re unmotivated and it’s possible they’ll concur or empathise. Feeling unmotivated is sometimes inevitable, isn’t it?

I don’t think we should accept that.

I think there are things we’re always up for, rain or shine, tired or otherwise. Moreover, I think those things are easy to identify.

I believe humans have an inner will, which seeks to exert its purpose, continually and consistently, and influences everything we do. This force communicates its intentions constantly, in a language I’ve named Primal; we communicate our purpose in this language, including subconsciously, throughout life.

Primal impulses are always driving us to rumble, continuously motivated.

Our actions reveal where we want to have impact.

A hundred years ago, the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie had a lot more money than most of us will ever see. He also knew a thing or two about people. As he grew older, he said he paid less attention to the things people said; he watched what they did.

Actions, Carnegie realised, communicated intention just as eloquently as any spoken or written language, and more accurately.

You’ll easily recall someone who has disappointed you recently; maybe you disappointed yourself. A task that needed doing wasn’t done, or was done late, or parts of it were skimped; you’ve been let down. Perhaps you let yourself down.

All too often, our attention wanders. We start one thing and then think about another. We miss deadlines because something else came up that was more interesting and, almost without thinking, we gave this new direction priority.

Primal impulses exert influence over focus. If we’re driven by the Proposing impulse, for example, we’ll constantly find ourselves Forming Ideas and Advocating their acceptance, regardless of the other things we ‘should’ be doing.

Those other things get left, for seconds or even hours. We might have been lawn-mowing, studying law, or updating spreadsheets. If others demand progress from us, we’ll drag our attention back and do a little more, until the next urge to Form Ideas takes over.

Primal impulses cannot be easily repressed.

Primal impulses communicate their will in patterns

We humans are constantly impacting our environment. We’re driven to do it by internal and often subconscious impulses that cause us to act in support of our beliefs and values.

A Primal impulse is an urge to act in a certain way; it’s a deep-seated inner drive that impels conscious action to fulfil it. The impulses themselves are not obvious; we can’t tell by looking at someone, for example, if their dominant impulse is to authenticate, which is determining reality.

Nonetheless, if we observe how individuals perform at work or interact with others, we’ll see patterns recurring in their actions. The patterns reveal their dominant impulses clearly; together, they form a language. Primal language communicates the way we are driven.  

Six impulses drive all human activity:

  • We propose and promote new ideas
  • We resolve, meaning we decide individually or collectively how ideas could be implemented
  • We initiate new projects or artistic activities; we’ll participate and compete
  • We manage resources and any processes we’ve begun
  • We authenticate the quality or usefulness of our results
  • We luminate, meaning we interpret the significance of our experiences or knowledge, and pass that awareness onto others.

We all have these six impulses within us. Mankind as a whole is continually influenced by them; they drive our evolution.

However, in any one individual, one or two of the Primal impulses dominate. Actions driven by these will recur constantly; the pattern they produce clearly shows that individual’s passion and purpose—regardless of anything they tell you to the contrary.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are”Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Our values determine how Primal impulses manifest

In The Linguist, Elvin Jarvis explains how values affect our focus.

“People go after things they want. Let’s think of an example: a guy named Steve, driven primarily by the Initiating impulse. If one of his principal values was An Invigorating Life, which prioritises change, exciting events and stimulation, he might run off to see the world. Steve does have an itch to see South America.

“However, Steve has young children in school. Additionally his most important values are Dedication and Harmony; family stability is important to Steve and he won’t put it at risk.

“Nonetheless, Steve is still driven to Initiate, so he might over-extend himself financially to build a new home in a newly developed area. This is a Pioneering action; he’ll get a thrill from doing something new, which will be literally ground-breaking. But he’s also putting down roots for his family and making a significant commitment.”

In a podcast this last week, Trent Innes—Managing Director of Xero Australia—spoke about a ‘coffee cup test’ that their organisation used when deciding if an applicant was a good match for their team. Observing someone’s attitude towards an empty coffee cup gives an interviewer valuable  insight, Innes believes.

I agree.

If you’re taken to the kitchen to grab your own coffee before an interview, will you offer to take the dirty cup back there afterwards?

“What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary,” wrote Emerson, over a hundred years ago. It’s true today. Every action you take produces a window through which others see your values—and it is your values that ultimately determine how effective you’ll be in any role.

Identifying your Primal impulses

As you cannot ’see’ impulses in others, only the actions they impel, you’ll need to observe behaviour to discover them. It doesn’t take long, however. The patterns created by impulse-driven action tend to make its underlying cause quite obvious after a short time.

Primal impulses can’t be hidden without huge effort.

You can easily detect the dominant impulses in yourself. There are several ways of doing it; from quick and easy methods to long and reflective methods. Inevitably, accuracy is sacrificed for speed, yet even the swiftest methodology – four questions—produces a useful starting point.

Here are those four questions.

Question 1:

Do you prefer a role where desired outcomes are known and the goalposts are fixed, or one where expectations constantly change as new ideas are developed and introduced?

This question contrasts Managing and Proposing impulses. Managers like to focus on organising and structuring—and getting results—new ideas constantly thrown around aren’t helpful.

Compare that approach with a Proposer’s solution to ‘too many balls in the air’, which is likely to include throwing another one up there. Proposers revel in chaos because of the opportunities it produces; a Manager’s entire focus is to make order out of chaos.

Question 2:

In any situation when you have to make choices, can you make a decision on nothing more than gut feeling, or will you generally delay until you are certain you have explored all options and have some evidence you can rely on?

This question contrasts Authentication and Resolving impulses. Authenticators are looking for certainty and will not affirm the state of something until all the available information about it has been analysed.

Resolvers want a decision; they will make one even in the face of doubt. Their drive to move on enables them to dare and risk, actions an Authenticator will avoid.

Question 3

If you discover a problem, do you jump straight in to sort it, because you believe it’s important to keep things going—even with duct tape—or will you take a reflective approach, wanting to understand the full picture before deciding whether intervention is needed?

This question contrasts Luminating and Initiating impulses. Initiators are driven to get going; just say the word and they are off. They are driven to discover the best way to accomplish things through trial-and-error, through exploration and competition.

Luminators don’t ‘try it and see what happens’; they reflect on past experience—theirs and other’s— and use the awareness gained to determine the significance of knowledge.

Question 4

In general, do you prefer to work in a group or team, or on your own wherever possible?

This question contrasts collaborative and independent working styles. Some of us are driven to work in a team; others prefer autonomy. Cooperating with others on a project enables solutions to be found using multiple minds, and implemented with many hands. However, many people feel unshackled when they are able to work alone.

Primal language reveals opportunities

When you’ve defined your Primal impulses, you have a metric about yourself much more useful than most other measures used to define people, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

Your CAP—Creative Action Pattern—is the blend of your most commonly-occurring impulse-driven actions. This pattern is unique, like a fingerprint. Millions will have the same dominant impulses, but the actions you take to satisfy those impulses are influenced by your values—and the sum of our values is different in each of us.

Your CAP reveals the way you’re driven to influence and impact. Those who know it know how you’ll inevitably want to act, regardless of circumstances or control.

Your CAP is the essence of your purpose.

Fulfilment, happiness and a sense of accomplishment all come from upholding our values during the current moment. Knowing your CAP enables you to more effectively direct your activities—and enjoy more of those moments.

A set of cards is being developed, which will define all the Primal patterns so far identified. A manual is also in production.

Do you feel a strong Initiating impulse within you?

You can become a foundation member of The Evolving, the tribe using Primal patterns to impact the world.

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