Sunday, August 10, 2014

Purpose vs Profit: Which one leads to happiness?

Recent research is shining a light on which perspective on life leads to personal happiness. 

The competing perspectives are: 1) Purpose - having as your core mission the goal of serving others or a greater societal goal, 2) Profit - focusing on the financial rewards in life, and 3) Combining Purpose and Profit - having a serious purpose in life to serve others and society, but also a desire to achieve financial rewards and recognition.

Dr. Angela Duckworth reports in the New York Times about her 20-year study on happiness. They evaluated new cadets entering West Point Academy by administering a detailed personality questionnaire. The results allowed the reseachers to place each cadet in one of three categories:

1. They want to be a great Army officer.
2. They want recognition and/or money.
3. They want both to be a great officer and achieve recognition and make money. 

These were interpreted as:

1. Purpose
2. Profit
3. Combination of purpose and profit. 

Twenty years later, researchers followed up with the subjects and evaluated how satisfied the individuals had become. It turns out there's only one way to achieve true satisfaction in life. Living with purpose, and giving little consideration to profit or recognition. 

Interestingly, they also found those who focused on purpose actually achieved financial success and professional recognition. They didn't seek it, but by living with purpose, they accomplished more, lead more, and were recognized by others for their achievements.

The lesson is: Bloom where you are planted. Do the best you can where you are, and do it to serve others and society. It's the only road to satisfaction and happiness.

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