How to unlock the purpose that will motivate you to be your best

“Why does your business exist?” 

It’s a question I often ask at the start of working with a new client.

Frequently, I’ll get a quizzical look and a reply something like “To make money.”

Some even follow that up with a lecture right out of business school. “Everyone knows,” they say, “the only purpose of a business is to earn a return for its shareholders.”

Sure, any business has to make money. But there are three problems with focusing on that as the purpose of the business.

  1. Saying the purpose of a business is to make money is kind of like saying the purpose of a person is to eat and breathe. It’s necessary but not sufficient.
  2. The logical endpoint of a business whose only purpose is to make money is Enron. Or Theranos. Or Lehman Brothers. Or any number of other examples of businesses doing shady things. Money as a sole motivator can easily lead management down the road of unethical behavior, if not straight up fraud.
  3. Speaking of money as a sole motivator. It just isn’t that effective.

The first two items speak for themselves. Let’s explore the third one a little.

Money is an extrinsic motivator.

And extrinsic motivators usually only work in the short term.

First, you may be thinking, ex-what?

Extrinsic is a 50-cent word that refers to something that provides validation outside of ourselves. It can be a reward or avoidance of punishment, e.g. getting money or going into work to avoid being fired.  

Reality TV might have us believe people will do anything for money, but the truth is everyone has a limit when it comes to extrinsic motivations.   

Why?

These goals keep us interested for brief periods of time, but they lack longevity.

If we’re not driven by something inside us, it doesn’t matter how much money we are offered. We won’t care enough to do the hard work.

Don’t believe me?

Think of a time when you had a job you didn’t like and your boss threw more money at you to keep you from quitting. How long did that last? Not very.

The same idea applies in reverse.

Research has shown if we like our job, more money won’t necessarily lead to more engagement. People working entire salary brackets apart who have the same level of interest in their position report similar job satisfaction.  

The bottom line is we cannot expect money to give us the same drive as something that we feel passionate towards.

If money can’t buy happiness, what can?

We are three times as likely to doggedly pursue a goal when we’re motivated intrinsically - or driven by internal rewards.

Intrinsic goals are all about self-actualization - enhancing one’s esteem or fostering one’s passions or interests.

This isn’t just me blathering on about purpose and self-actualization and intrinsic goals. There’s research out there to support what I’m saying. And it’s conclusions are clear:

Purposes-driven businesses do better.

Employees will be more engaged and motivated to work if they are working for a purpose.

Customers will be willing to spend more money if they know the company or product is supporting a cause.

Whole Food CEO, John Mackey, and his research partner, Rajendra Sisodia, explain this in the theory of “Conscious Capitalism.”

They believe capitalism will thrive when businesses work for the common good of all its parts (employees, customers, shareholders, executives, customers etc.) as well as the community it serves and the world at large.

They feel corporations have a duty to perform as ethically and “consciously” as possible. Meaning they must be aware of their impact at each level of production and consumption.

This may sound noble, but are you worried it also sounds expensive?

Worry not; these businesses see a big return on their investment.

Sisoda found the brands participating in Conscious Capitalism saw 1025% return on investment over 10 years vs. 122% for the S&P 500, and 316% for the companies profiled in the bestselling book “Good to Great.”

So not only do these companies have a greater purpose and do good for the world, they do very well for themselves.

I’m not talking about cause marketing or supporting charities

Though those things are good things to do. And they could be elements of your company’s bigger purpose.

I’m talking about organizing your company around a purpose.

So what is your “purpose?”

Your purpose doesn’t have to be a grand “save the world” thing, but it can be. Your purpose is anything that motivates you to do what you do, that’s not a paycheck, of course.

This purpose can simple.

Simple could mean improving the lives of the people in your community.

It could also mean implementing more environmentally sustainable business practices, partnering up with a local charity, or implementing more ethical production processes.

It’s already in you. You just need to bring it to the surface.

So what’s your impact?

As you think about what impact your business makes on the world try this simple exercise.

Complete this sentence: “My business exists to…”

Keep completing this sentence until it gives you goosebumps. And you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

When you find the purpose that brings your business into alignment with what truly matters to you, you’ll be unstoppable.

Do you have an ending to our sentence starter “My business exists to…”? Declare it to the world in the comments below.

Having a hard time getting there? We help people align their businesses with what matters to them every day. Get in touch.

If you are having trouble knowing exactly where your business should be going or what you need to make your journey successful, we can help!

Book a free 1-hour Breakthrough Consultation with us.