I write this from the shade of my poolside lounger on holiday in Greece. I came across a word of Greek origin that I thought interesting, timely and worth sharing,
Do you believe that everything has a purpose? Aristotle, the ancient Greek father of western philosophy, thought so, and he called that purpose, telos (pronounced ‘TELL-os’ or ‘TAY-los’). The word can mean ‘purpose,’ ‘intent,’ ‘end,’ or ‘goal,’ but as usual, Aristotle used it in a more specific and subtle sense—the inherent purpose of each thing, the ultimate reason for each thing being the way it is, whether created that way by human beings or nature.
I say it was timely, because I’ve been keeping up with all the big news from home… and when I say BIG NEWS … I mean Love Island! Gripping the nation with a latest fix of viewing and discussing human behaviour. A much talked about topic is one of the female Islanders – Georgia – who has reiterated time and time again that she is “loyal”. (Twitter, Instagram and various other social media platforms are filled with memes, graphics and comments and much hilarity abounds.)
However, it got me wondering just why she feels the need to spell it out so often? Is there some sense that if you tell people something often enough then they will believe it to be true… whatever follows? Self-marketing and PR of the highest order? Does she see being loyal as her inherent purpose?
How much do we get to decide the terms that describe us – and actually, how much of who we are can best be attributed to us by others? Those of you familiar with the Johari Window model will be aware that there are elements of ourselves that we know which others don’t … we keep it private. There are elements that both ourselves and others know to be true, and there are some parts of our personality that neither ourselves or others have yet uncovered (maybe waiting for our glorious future to reveal itself!) Finally … and perhaps most interestingly, there are the facets of us which others see and which we may be blind to, unware of, not recognising i.e.. Totally lacking awareness of.
Back to the issue at hand … shouting what we believe are our positive characteristics from the roof top. Can we do that ourselves?? Is it not more appropriate for others to praise the good stuff? Does there need to be some agreement from others before we can truly be said to hold any title? I don’t have the answers, and maybe not, (plenty of diagnostics would argue that self is the best judge of character)… Love Island’s Georgia may believe she is loyal without any agreement from others. Some may agree with her, others won’t. Three sides to every story and all that so I’ll leave it there.
But… the whole thing joined in my head with this idea of Telos… the idea that everything in nature has a potential it can reach when it is most “itself and how we each know when we are most “our self”. What personality traits most describe you? Would others agree? Are the words in your head right now the way you want to be known? If not, what is it about your behaviour that would need to change to ensure the traits people notice are the ones you want to be known for? It can’t hurt to take stock every now and then, to think about who we are, how we are. To reflect on this idea of “Telos” and how close we are to our best potential.
Failing that, we could go on national TV, choose what we’d most like to be known for, shout it out a few times every day and hope it sticks!