Why Living with Purpose Is Easier Than You ThinkNone By Emily Esfahani Smith
Purpose sounds big—ending world hunger big or eliminating nuclear weapons big. But it doesn’t have to be. You can also find purpose in being a good parent to your children, creating a more cheerful environment at your office, or making a giraffe’s life more pleasant.
According to William Damon, a developmental psychologist at Stanford, purpose has two important dimensions. First, purpose is a “stable and far-reaching” goal. Most of our goals are mundane and immediate, like getting to work on time, going to the gym, or doing the dishes. Purpose, by contrast, is a goal toward which we are always working. It is the forward-pointing arrow that motivates our behavior and serves as the organizing principle of our lives.
Second, purpose involves a contribution to the world. It is, Damon writes with his colleagues, “a part of one’s personal search for meaning, but it also has an external component, the desire to make a difference in the world, to contribute to matters larger than the self.” That could mean advancing human rights or working to close the achievement gap in education, but it works on a smaller level, too. Teens who help their families with tasks like cleaning, cooking, and caring for siblings, for example, also feel a greater sense of purpose.
People who have such a purpose believe that their lives are more meaningful and more satisfying. They are more resilient and motivated, and they have the drive to muddl