A Sense of Purpose

sense of purpose

My wife and I recently spent some time in Sedona, Arizona, one of our favorite places. As part of our timeshare experience, we agreed to listen to the sales pitch. Near the end of the presentation, the salesperson said, “I want you to imagine that you didn’t have to worry about going to work. You were completely free. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? Wouldn’t you want to have more vacation time? No worries. Just vacation. All the time.”

At that moment, I just wanted the presentation to be over and didn’t think our salesperson was especially interested in a serious answer. She posed it as an innocuous question with an obvious answer. I took at as invitation to really reflect about what I value. I just smiled and feigned agreement.

In fact, when I thought about a life of “just vacation” and not having to worry about going to work, it seemed horribly unfulfilling. Don’t get me wrong. I love vacation. As someone who teaches and practices Choice Theory , I know that being on vacation is wonderfully need-satisfying and allows me to meet my need for freedom. But as wonderful as vacation is, it does little to help me meet my need for power and competence. In his book Drive, Dan Pink talks about the motivation to create a sense of purpose in our life. In Choice Theory, we talk about the universal need for power and competence. Regardless of the terminology we use, humans are driven by more than simply going on vacation. To be fulfilled, we need to live a purposeful life.

When the economy took a turn for the worse a couple of years ago, I had very little consulting work for some time. During a visit home, my son Greg asked me if I had any jobs coming up. “It’s been slow,” I said, “but things are picking up and I have quite a bit happening in the next couple of months.”

“That’s good,” Greg said.

“Why do you care?” I asked. “You don’t even live here!”

“It’s just that when you work, you’re way happier. When things are slow, you get bored and can be kind of grumpy!” He was absolutely right. I get paid to consult but I don’t consult just for money. The work I do helps me feel a sense of competence and purpose. Without it, I may experience many moments of pleasure, but I need to create purpose in my life to feel genuine happiness. Vacation is pleasurable. It may even be necessary. But vacation alone won’t bring true happiness.

By the way, this was written while I was on vacation in Sedona. It was an essential component of a very satisfying day!