THIS IS PERHAPS the wrong question.
But we’ve been telling our kids for generations now to do what makes them happy. “Follow your bliss,” we say.
The problem is that happiness is an emotion, and it’s fleeting. What makes you happy today starts to become boring, and you may even grow to detest it over time.
That’s why the concept of purpose – for an individual, group, or even business – is so crucial. Because that can be important and enduring.
What are the emotions associated with a strong sense of purpose? How do you know when you have a good one? It’s actually pretty complicated.
If you’re happy with your purpose, that’s great I suppose – but don’t expect it. And don’t expect that emotion to stick around for a long time. For a purpose with any depth and impact, you’re going to have times when it’s bloody hard work. At that time, you may not be having fun, but still be motivated to continue on.
You might be satisfied with your purpose, but more likely it’ll be with certain activities. After you search your collective souls to articulate a powerful purpose, there will be a sense of satisfaction. But it may be out of a sense of relief that you just did an activity which was hard but useful.
You may well be scared of what you’ve taken on, the implications of what you’ve decided. Realize that this is also a temporary phase, to be replaced by caution, becoming energized, even overwhelmed. That’s OK, because anything important may well involve these kinds of emotions.
Compare it to a marriage. After courtship, the couple decides to make a commitment to each other. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s compelling, even a little terrifying. But the larger picture takes over, including support systems of family and societal norms.
When you have a purpose-driven business, it’s a bit harder, because you may well be outside societal norms. Everyone perhaps admires your resolve and altruism, but continuously gives you cautionary and negative feedback. That’s when it’s time to develop your own support system: your management team, goals and measures, employees, and the partners you choose to hang out with.
That’s a reason why married people tend to hang out with other couples: They have a common frame of reference and will reinforce each other.
Go out there and develop relationships with supportive partners, people who will support what you do or at least your way of thinking about your business.
Great happiness will come as a result. Not every minute of every day, but overall.
But more important than being happy, you’ll continue to be motivated by your deep sense of purpose and values. You’ll continue to move forward.