Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose


A few years ago, my friend Carlotta was going through a real career slump. She was working full-time as an executive headhunter. She had gotten into the recruiting business because she enjoyed connecting people, but she felt more like a cutthroat salesperson working on commission. She made decent money but was having trouble motivating herself to get up every morning. She wasn’t bad at her job but felt depressed because she believed she had more potential.

Fast-forward to today: Carlotta owns a small but thriving executive matchmaking service. She helps her clients with all aspects of their dating lives. She loves her job and looks forward to getting to work every morning. The interesting thing is she doesn’t make more money than she did as a recruiter and she works many more hours -  yet she is much happier. Clearly, the financial reward was not my friend’s primary motivator.

So if money and other rewards don’t drive us, then what does? Author Daniel Pink offers one approach in his new book, “Drive: the Secret to What Motivates Us”

The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

As I read through the book, it all started to make sense. We want independence – the ability to make the decisions we feel are best. We also want to be the best at something – that recognition is what makes us a unique, valuable individual. And finally, none of this means anything without purpose: the feeling that we are doing something good for society.

Carlotta is happy in her new job because she has found autonomy, mastery, and purpose. She is her own boss, is great at what she does, and genuinely feels that she’s doing well by the world. This stands in stark contrast to her previous job, where she reported to others, wasn’t the best at her work, and didn’t believe she had much value. The money was the same and the hours were actually better, but that’s not what was important to her.

We’ve all had jobs we don’t like. Maybe some of you still do and don’t feel you easily change them. However, you shouldn’t let that get in the way of finding autonomy, mastery, and purpose in some aspect of your life. Develop a new hobby or start a side business that you are passionate about. You will not regret it.

What motivates you most – Autonomy, Mastery, or Purpose? Please share in the comments

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