What makes you tick? What inspires you to be at your best? If you think it is the promise of external rewards (money, “stuff”, recognition) and the external trappings of success you’ve got it wrong. It may seem like that is the goal, after all, that is how most organizations design their rewards system. Yet, the new book Drive from Dan Pink paints a different picture (and backs it up with real science to boot).
In the Purpose chapter of his book Pink talks about a study that examined the effect of “extrinsic aspirations” (aka “profit goals”) versus “intrinsic aspirations” (aka “purpose goals”) on both goal achievement and satisfaction. (You can get the full details on page 142-143 of the book.)
The results showed that those with “purpose goals” felt higher levels of satisfaction as well as lower levels of anxiety. That doesn’t surprise anyone. What was interesting to note, though was that those with “profit goals” didn’t feel any happier even if they were achieving those goals. To make matters worse, the “profit goal” oriented group also increased their anxiety and depression. So not only didn’t achieving these external trappings lead to some holy grail of happiness, they actually made life feel worse!
I know I totally understand these findings. I wrote about “I Will Be Happy When…” in the past. I know personally I made choices in the past that compromised my desire for purpose and meaning for money and the illusion of security. No matter how much I earned or how successful I appeared, I was miserable. Sure I enjoyed the paycheck, but it is no substitute for living each day with a sense of purpose. For enjoying the journey. Frankly you can have both. It might not look how you think it will, but it does work out.
So, would you rather be guided by intrinsic meaning and live on purpose or chase an elusive (and frankly depressing) holy grail?
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