According to a Cornell study, social approval (or lack of it) does not affect people who have a sense of purpose. Or, rather, it does not affect them as much as it does those whose self-esteem hangs on being liked.
Anthony Burrow, a co-author of the study, defines a sense of purpose as
“ongoing motivation that is self-directed, oriented toward the future and beneficial to others.”
How do you develop a stronger sense of purpose to create a sustainable and healthier mindset?
Let’s look at the first area of purpose in Burrow’s definition.
Sense of Purpose Factor #1 – Ongoing motivation that is self-directed.
Check these areas of your plans to make sure you have a strong enough sense of purpose:
- Define (or re-define) why you do what you do – Is your purpose well-defined? Do you know when you’ve reached your goals? Are they measurable by something other than social media likes?
- Focus -Is your business purpose always at the forefront of your workspace? Zig Ziglar, the famed motivational speaker, motivated himself for weight loss by having the picture of a person at his ideal size somewhere where he could see it often.
- Set Your Goals – Make sure there are big pictures goals as well as daily goals. If daily goals are nebulous, you run the risk of being distracted by blog stats and such.
- Plan regular meetings with mentors and accountability partners – Everyone is ignorant, just in different subjects. Your mentor can see what you might not see about how you run your life or business. Your accountability partner helps you run the extra mile.
- Understand how you function. e.g. What’s your personality type? In what sort of environment do you do your best work?
- Regular self-examination and paying attention to the results of your goals.
Let’s take a look at the second and third areas in Burrow’s definition of a sense of purpose – oriented towards the future and beneficial to others
Sense of Purpose Factor#2 – Ongoing motivation that is oriented toward the future.
To develop a sense of purpose and not give way to the fickleness of social likes, the second thing we must have is an ongoing motivation with a future orientation, according to Burrow.
The past is great -it can teach us many things, it can help us not to reinvent the wheel. As C.S. Lewis says,
“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”
In other words, strike a balance between now and then.
We must also appreciate and anticipate the future, moving ever forward if we are to have a sense of purpose and not be swayed by social likes (or a lack of them).
How do we gain and maintain this future orientation in our motives?
Neil Patel has written The 7 Secrets of Self-Motivated Entrepreneurs. His article can be useful even if you are not a businessperson, no matter what your goals might be. The biggest takeaway I see in his article is this – to keep looking forward, make your goal a part of your daily routine in someway (emphasis on daily). Put it in your face, in the mirror, in your pocket, on your desk. Wherever you need to encounter your goal, put it there and interact with it or chip away at it every single day.
Sense of Purpose Factor #3 – Ongoing motivation that is beneficial to others.
We have discussed before how the sweet spot of success lies where your interests overlap with the needs of others. This seems to be Burrows’ conclusion as well. Ongoing motivation that helps you to weather social disapproval is not only self-directed and future oriented, it is also beneficial to other people.
It has been my experience that when I’m concerned so heavily about what people think of me, I might achieve something, but I am miserable the whole time. When you seek to help others with their problems, you’re not concentrating so heavily on your own issues. In a way, you have derailed your mind from the “woe is me” track that it was on.
This is not to say that your challenges are not important. They are. However, a totally self-involved set of goals will not help you create that sense of purpose which helps you to weather the storm of social dislikes. There must be some outer direction in your plans.
Peace Be With You,
P.S. How do you handle social dislikes? Let me know.