Create Purpose



Create Purpose.


Adam Smith said the ‘Invisible Hand’ of self-interest guides human economic activity. Buyers will purchase what they believe will fulfill their needs, and sellers will produce what they believe people in their community want to buy.

One problem with this theory is that we do not always act in our best interest. We often act against self-interest because we lack self-discipline to make healthy decisions. We may also act against our own interest when we believe another person will benefit from our personal sacrifice.

The conversation about buyers and sellers also leaves out the workers who often produce products they cannot afford nor have a need to buy. Since the Industrial Revolution and the birth of large businesses with many employees, people demand profits from a business benefit workers as well as owners.

Today in the Information Age, we are asking another important question. Owners, employees and customers want to know if business profits also benefit the less-fortunate in society. Knowing that our work lives and buying decisions benefit not only ourselves, but all members of society in some way, is highly motivating.

Meeting human needs gives us a sense of purpose. We spend a lot of time working, which pulls us away from social and family lives. Instead of living a divided life in which we only experience human connections at home, we seek to also express our love and empathy to one another on the job and to the outside world while we work.

Teachers are in a great position to express to students and colleagues what motivates us to chase professional excellence. We serve a purpose beyond our paycheck. Most of us love studying our content and working with kids. We want to pass the torch of passion to our students and help them grow up into purpose-filled adults.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink says, “People at work are thirsting for context, yearning to know that what they do contributes to a larger whole. And a powerful way to provide that context is to spend a little less time telling how and a little more time showing why”.

How can we show our students why we teach? Perhaps we could not only teach our content, but also practice it in some way for fun. For example, English teachers could write essays on literature they are reading. Accounting teachers could run a small tax firm. Science teachers could conduct experiments and research on topics that fascinate them.

One of the teachers who impacted on me in high school was an auto shop teacher who ran a small foundry in his shed at home. He made rare parts for antique vehicles that he shipped all over the world. We learned so much talking with him in class about what he was doing outside of class. His passion was contagious, practical and personified in a very intelligent man that we could talk to face to face.

We can encourage our students to discover the passions which drive them from within and open their eyes to the needs of others around them. We can encourage them to use elements of knowledge they learn through our courses in real-world situations.

When our personal interests and the needs of others come together, we have a very powerful bond of purpose that builds communities together in a very natural way. Our professions gives us a great chance to live out our passions and to model how mastering our content can also build purpose in the lives our students.



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