Written By: Paisley Hansen
In recent years, many psychologists have been interested in the role that intrinsic motivation plays in career success. In contrast to external motivating factors such as social status and wealth acquisition, for example, intrinsic motivation tends to center around the acquisition of a genuine feeling of purpose and desire to help others through one's work. Indeed, without the sense of purpose that defines the intrinsically motivated person, psychologists often find that otherwise capable individuals tend to hit periods of extreme self-doubt and burnout in their professional lives.
So why is finding a sense of purpose in our work such a central part of creating a happy life and a successful career? Here are just a few ways in which purpose can change our lives for the better, and why more and more entrepreneurs and business leaders are beginning to prize purposeful career goals over high salaries and fancy job titles.
For many people in the business world, it is increasingly easy to focus too much on self-interest; bonuses for CEOs have never been higher, and a new generation of workers seems driven by a need to keep up with the Joneses. Yet the results of a self-centered work life may be less rewarding than we might imagine it to be. Whether we're striving for the next promotion or seeking fulfillment in a materialistic lifestyle, losing track of why we work hard in the first place can become a vicious cycle of disappointment and regret.
To this end, focusing on how we can help others and elicit positive social change can be the perfect way to rejuvenate our passion for business. Whether it's through launching a cutting-edge start-up in order to provide jobs to others or in creating a great product or service for the public, we can rekindle our passion for business by looking beyond ourselves and focusing on the well-being of society as a whole. Money has its place, of course, but when we’re solely driven by our need to out-earn and out-spend our neighbors and colleagues, we’ll soon discover that work becomes an endless grind.
Moreover, by helping other people through our efforts, we'll likely end up creating a better service or product. Many of the best entrepreneurs used this principle to change the world: When profitability is a result of a great product rather than its final destination, the results can be stunning. When Steve Jobs created Apple Inc., for example, he wanted to create a company that would change the lives of its customers for the better.
Had Jobs merely focused on the benefits of starting a business for himself, he would likely have created far less interesting (and far less profitable) products. By turning his attention outside of himself , however, Jobs created generations of passionate Apple customers. As his interest in helping others increased, Jobs did better and better work.
As any entrepreneur worth their salt will tell you, being a business leader is an extremely difficult calling at times, and if we're only showing up to work to benefit ourselves, we won't be able to make it through the turbulent periods of growth experienced by any company. Had Bill Gates not had a passion for creating revolutionary new software, for example, he would probably have given up on Microsoft in the company's earliest stages of development. Indeed, it is unlikely that Gates and the early Microsoft team got through an endless cycle of back-to-back 100-hour workweeks without feeling that there was a sense of purpose, passion, and meaning behind their efforts.
For these reasons, finding a sense of purpose in your work can be a truly life-changing experience. Not only will a sense of purpose give you the resilience you'll need in challenging times, it will also enable you to create better products and services for your customers and clients. Self-interest may get us ahead in the short-term, it is true, but no great company can hold onto the brass ring of success without a genuine sense of purpose.
Paisley Hansen is a freelance writer and expert in health, fitness, and productivity. When she isn’t writing she can usually be found reading a good book or hitting the gym. She's discovered a few tricks to finding meaning in everyday life and enjoys sharing her secret with her readers.