What is so important about purpose and flourishing?

What is so important about purpose and flourishing?

As human beings, we are hard-wired for purpose.

It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning — what drives us to make the early morning commute. It also motivates us to explore new opportunities or improve our minds by learning new skills.

Many of us spend our whole lives defining and refining our sense of purpose and what it means for us as human beings.

According to a 2021 McKinsey & Company report, nearly two-thirds of U.S.-based employees surveyed said that COVID-19 caused them to reflect on their purpose in life, with nearly half of those saying that they were subsequently rethinking the type of work that they do.1

Purpose is intensely personal — which is not an adjective that always dwells comfortably in the work sphere. But maybe it needs to.

In the same McKinsey report, 70% of employees said their purpose was defined by their work. That’s a tall order for leadership — effectively defining the purpose of their employees’ lives.1

Now, more than ever, leaders must take stock and key into their coworkers’ sense of purpose — connecting with what defines and devastates their workforce.

The good news is, when we effectively connect with our purpose — at work or in life — it leads to flourishing.

As humans, when we are connected to our sense of purpose, who we are, and what we stand for, it’s easier to show up in the world — for ourselves and for each other.

With support for our own health and well-being, we have the energy to share our strengths and light with those we care about. And then we can productively contribute to the world, individually and collectively, creating human and organizational flourishing.

There’s an abundance of new empirical research on how humans don’t just thrive — but flourish — individually and in their communities. We CAN optimize everyone’s performance and creatively solve problems and issues without sacrificing our authenticity.

“Human flourishing is the state in which we are cultivating and increasing our positive emotions, engaging with the world and our work (or hobbies), developing deep and meaningful relationships, finding meaning and purpose in our lives, and achieving our goals through cultivating and applying our strengths and talents.”

Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, and Dr. Lynn Soots. 3

Seligman and Soots maintain that “We experience inner joy, happiness, life satisfaction — in essence, living the ‘good life.’ Flourishing could hold the key to improving the quality of life for people around the world … It has tremendous implications for the way we live, love, and relate to one another.” 3

It also has tremendous implications for the way we work.

“Well-being, thriving, and flourishing are about how our lives are going. They encompass all the things that are important to each of us and how we experience our lives. It’s not only about happiness and health but also about living our personal and professional lives to their fullest potential,” says Iseult Morgan. 4

The last two years have challenged our sense of self, our well-being, and our ability to flourish.

Indeed, the Pandemic forced many of us to pause and reflect. With it came the realization that our individual well-being, our purpose, and our professional lives — so tightly interconnected — affect our ability to flourish.

In fact, according to a study on flourishing in the workplace published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) has added occupational burnout — a condition resulting from chronic work stress — to the International Classification of Diseases as “an occupational phenomenon that may influence health status.”2

But there was also a positive side to this forced time of reflection.

This obstacle also offered extraordinary opportunities for all of us to reset, build on our strengths, and actually make quantum leaps in our personal and professional lives.

As humans — leaders, employees, teachers, parents, maintenance technicians, software writers, firefighters, and millennial influencers — we are reflecting on what’s important to us and how we spend our valuable time and energy to get closer to a state of flourishing.


1. Naina Dhingra, Andrew Samo, Bill Schaninger and Matt Schrimper; Help Your Employees Find Purpose or Watch Them Leave; https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave

2. Source: Ho, H.C.Y. and Chan, Y.C.; Flourishing in the Workplace: A One-Year Prospective Study on the Effects of Perceived Organizational Support and Psychological Capital; https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/ijerph/ijerph-19-00922/article_deploy/ijerph-19-00922.pdf?version=1642164090

3. Dr. Martin Seligman, Dr. Lyn Soots, https://positivepsychology.com/flourishing/

4. Iseult Morgan, Employees Want Wellbeing From Their Job, and They’ll Leave to Find It, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/352952/employees-wellbeing-job-leave-find.aspx

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