Happiness, Motivation, and the Power of Purpose

In recent weeks we’ve considered happiness from a variety of perspectives: what makes us happy, what doesn’t, and why we’re so bad at distinguishing between the two. Sometimes the insights offered have been surprising: turns out that getting more stuff or making loads of money doesn’t make us happy, while giving money away does.

In this TEDTalk, Dan Pink — author of one of my favorites books in recent years, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future — offers another surprise: contrary to popular wisdom, we are rarely motivated or made happy by the traditional rewards and carrots of monetary incentives and disincentives. Rather, we are most powerfully motivated – especially to accomplish tasks that take critical and creative thought – by having a sense of purpose. If we believe, that is, that what we do makes a difference, we will find ourselves highly motivated to stick with it.

What might this mean for the way we organize our work, our homes, our congregations? What kind of insight does it shed on our roles as parents and teachers, employers and employees, leaders and volunteers? Watch the video and then let me know. And if you liked Dan’s talk, you might also enjoy his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. It’s a very good read and goes much more in-depth with the research that informed his TEDTalk. (I’ll put his video trailer for that book below.)

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