I have mentioned that Motivation 3.0 can be categorised by autonomy, mastery and purpose. In the last one, I will discuss the third tripod: purpose.

There is no better place to start than with Simon Sinek’s remark:

“All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves. The pursuit, for those who lose sight of WHY they are running the race, is for the medal or to beat someone else.”

Purpose gives us the reason to wake up in the morning when we are dead tired and the work is hard-going. From time immemorial, we, as a species, had look up to the sky and asked the question of our place in the universe, the reason to exist beyond ourselves. To seek the sense of purpose is to be a human.

We are drawn to organisations that are good at communicating that they stand for. Think about the time we applying for a job. I notice myself asking what this company value? And do they align with my set of values? For many, it is not all about money.

In a study conducted by Edward Deci, Richard Ryan and Christopher Niemiec, they tracked senior graduates after they left the University of Rochester. They noticed that some of students had what Deci and colleagues called “extrinsic aspirations”, characterised by noun — for example, to obtain certain level of wealth. Whilst, some had “intrinsic aspirations” which are generally characterised by verbs — to improve, to grow or to help other.

What they found is interesting. Those that had intrinsic goals reported higher levels of life satisfaction than those with extrinsic goals. By now, it should come as no surprise. They set personally meaningful goals, and achieved them. Whereas the other group were able to attain their goals, but they didn’t get any happier. As Daniel Pink put it: “When we get what we want, it’s not always what we need.”

The same can be said about companies. After all, they are collections of individuals. Sinek noted that healthy organisations begin with WHY,

WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

Following this trend, there is a new breed of companies that differ from the traditional “socially responsible” businesses that aim on chasing profit while abiding the law. Their goal is to pursue higher purposes. Profitability is only a vehicle to achieve these objectives.

So, if having higher purpose can lead to higher life satisfaction, what can we do as individuals?

Ask a big question…

In 1962, Clare Booth Luce offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy.

She said “A great man is one sentence.” Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin Roosevelt’s was: ” He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.”

For all of us, the one sentence doesn’t have to be grand. A mother’s sentence may simply be: “she raised four awesome children.” Or a doctor’s one may be: “he treated everyone who came to see him with kindness and gentleness.”

One way to live with purpose is to think about your sentence, a guiding light towards greater purpose, a compass to orientate your life ship. What is your one sentence?