Studies show that purpose-driven employees are more likely to be high performers and have a greater sense of accomplishment in their work. So, how do you we find meaning in our working lives? As a follow-on from his blog on personality profiles and establishing personality strengths, Anthony coombes looks at defining one’s individual purpose to achieve a greater sense of accomplishment at work.
Why do we do what we do and make the decisions we make? How can we make sense of our complexity, understanding ourselves and others better?
Why are people so certain that they “really hate spiders?” Survival has taught us to categorise our surroundings, assign roles and characterise things and people. However, not everything or everyone fits neatly into a type.
Astrology is one attempt to categorise people into types and the ancient Greeks developed a quadrant system. The psychiatrist Carl Jung also used quadrants to profile types of people; Introvert to Extravert, Logical to Intuitive, Thinking to Feeling and Fun Loving to Serious. However, people still didn’t fit neatly into these quadrants. So, each quadrant was further split into sub-quadrants by a student of Jung, Katherine Briggs, with the help of her daughter. Together they developed the Myers Briggs profiler, a system which places people into the quadrants.
These kinds of psychometric profilers have proved popular with businesses who look to recruit certain types of people, make the most of team dynamics and develop their employees. However, profilers only focus on what people do. Individuals and organisations who are most successful also know their purpose. Their motivation, conviction and consequently their actions come from a strong sense of purpose.
Identifying different peoples’ core needs is a predictor of their behaviour, it helps us to understand why people do what they do. As there is no right or wrong answer, it’s the differences which we use to anticipate conflict or blind spots and play to our motivation.
Steven Reiss Ph.D. (1947–2016) was a psychologist who asked, “what makes people tick?” His team conducted large-scale, cross-cultural surveys of what people say motivates them. The results identified 16 psychological needs or “basic desires”, which are goals common to everyone and deeply rooted in human nature. Everyone embraces the basic desires, but individuals prioritise them differently.
- Physical activity
- Social contact
At this point I am out of my depth. The collective unconscious is a term introduced by Jung to represent the part of the mind containing impulses of which the individual is not aware. It’s something that even the experts find complicated. Instead, let’s assume that people at work are either motivated by money, status or purpose.
Dismissing money as an incentive is naive, it puts food on the table and gives access to things and experiences that make for a richer life. But financial reward isn’t enough, we need to find meaning in our work. Acknowledgment from others and recognition of the effort we put in. Feeling good and social status are powerful motivators.
The harder a project is, the prouder we feel at the end. Seeing a tangible result makes us more productive and we value our work more compared to the effort expended.
Knowing that our work will help others also increases pride and motivation. Inversely the less appreciated our work is, the more money we want to do it.
Surely, it’s better for us all and our employers if we’re working on something satisfying that makes us happy and allows individuals to develop fully.
Studies show that people with a sense of purpose have a 15% lower risk of death. Purpose-driven companies outperform the market. Other studies show that purpose-driven employees are more likely to be high performers and have a greater sense of accomplishment in their work.
Other studies show that purpose-driven employees are more likely to be high performers and have a greater sense of accomplishment in their work.
So, how do you we find meaning in our working lives? Where have we already had an impact and where would we want to have an impact in the future?
First ask yourself when the last time was that you felt proud? What have you done professionally or personally that made you feel good?
Then ask who has benefited from your efforts? The most powerful purpose is often in service of others. It’s not just family and friends, consider customers, a community or culture. What’s the impact you’ve had on their lives?
Writing a purpose statement helped me focus and define a path for my future. The structure is simple:
“I exist to __________ (the impact) in order to serve __________ (the audience).”
My version is something like this: “I exist as an agent of change in order to serve the disenfranchised.”
Which I softened using language that doesn’t make me sound like a complete tool: “Helping others to think like a designer.”