Purpose – Part 2: Aligning purpose and happiness for success

With a clear purpose and vision, our life and business can soar and happiness can be at the core.

In Part 1 I shared my personal vision statement as we dove into the importance of being clear on our purpose and its relation to happiness and success in life.

Just like individuals, a company’s success is rooted in a clearly-defined purpose and values. It helps ensure employees are working toward the same end game. A clearly defined purpose can give a company its North Star. When a company defines a higher purpose beyond short-term financial goals and puts employee happiness at its core, it’s a tremendous win-win.

Let’s start by looking at how purpose can be defined.

Defined purpose and core values

Companies should set a vision statement and define their purpose. Without a clear purpose, organizations can fall into patterns of reactivity and short-term thinking. They can lose their path to long-term, sustainable success. Thinking only of current year profits is a dangerous approach for a business, especially in today’s ever-changing environment.

When defining a company purpose, the same process can be followed as for individual’s defining our core purpose, as outlined in Part 1 of this blog series. Companies can ask these key questions:

  1. What are our company’s core values?
  2. What character traits do we want our company and employees to be known for?
  3. What differentiates our company from others?
  4. What is one thing we do better than anyone else?
  5. What impact would we like to have on the world?
  6. What are our most fundamental beliefs?
  7. What is the greatest thing we want to achieve?

These questions can force a company to think longer term about where it wants to go and who it wants to be.

With a clearly defined purpose it will be easier to attract and retain employees that have compatible values and goals. When working towards a common purpose, the business succeeds through the successes of its employees. It can be a beautiful symbiotic, mutualistic relationship that benefits both the company and the employee.

Now more than ever, customers and employees are interested in understanding companies’ core values. They want to work with ethical, environmentally and socially aware companies. Therefore, when developing a corporate purpose, it’s wise to think bigger picture and go for a higher purpose. What can the company offer to employees and society beyond the basic product(s) or service(s) it provides? A higher purpose is one beyond just profits and immediate business results.

Higher purpose and culture

Zappos is an intriguing example of a successful company that discovered the power of defining its higher purpose. At the center of Zappos’ higher purpose is its culture, which is defined by happy, growing, creative, empowered employees. Zappos’ employees define/capture the company culture through the creation of an annual Zappos culture book.

Due to Zappos’ culture of growth and innovation, the vision of the company has evolved. At Zappos’ inception in 1999 its brand promise was having the “largest selection of shoes”, but it slowly evolved to “delivering happiness” in 2009.

“Delivering happiness” is a good example of a higher purpose for an online shoe company.

Having a robust company culture means living by those values and that mission each day and encouraging your teammates to do the same. A strong culture produces employees with a well-tuned sense of direction and helps create common definitions of success, so your company can grow as a team.

William Craig, 8 Ways Company Culture Drives Performance, Aug 2017

Zappos not only defined a higher purpose, but in the process it discovered the win-win of happy engaged employees with business performance and success. This leads me to another key link to a truly successful company – happy employees.

Alignment – happy people and business performance

As I was going through the process of defining my purpose, one of my fundamental beliefs surfaced – happy people and high performance go hand-in-hand. Therefore, it’s a huge win-win for companies and their employees when those employees are happy!

This belief has taken shape over the course of my career. From business school to more than twenty years working with banks and insurance companies, I see the impact people have on a company’s results. Financial services companies’ biggest asset and cost is their people. If employees are performing at their best, the company has a great chance of success.

As discussed in Part 1, peoples’ end game is happiness and studies show that happiness leads to success. Therefore, making happiness part of a company’s purpose and culture is a powerful win-win. When considering some of the key things that make people happy, and thus engaged (e.g. purpose, balance, connection, growth) it’s easy to see how workplaces can actually contribute to an individual’s happiness. Unfortunately, old corporate paradigms don’t always seem to naturally align work with happiness. These outdated perceptions can and should change though. Which is why a key message in my corporate speaking engagements is that the workplace is a great place to cultivate happiness.

For companies, it’s not only smart to pay attention to employees’ happiness, but there’s a high cost to ignoring it.

The cost of ignoring happiness and culture

In Part 1, we discussed “the great resignation”. There are numerous studies that have put a cost to employee disengagement resulting from poor cultures. One study found that 53% of Americans feel disengaged at work. Another study found that unhappy workers cost the North American economy $350 billion in lost productivity per year.

Happy employees tend to be engaged and stay with their company. Unhappy employees cost organizations in a number of ways, including:

In addition to the costs above, there are immeasurable costs from the negative ripple effects when unhappy employees go home to their families and communities.

Therefore, when considering your company’s purpose, think about its higher purpose and also how employee happiness can fit into the equation. It will be a win-win for employees and for business success.

Go for the win-win

If you’re an employee or a leader, consider your company’s higher purpose. Is it clearly defined? Does it resonate and inspire you? What role does happiness play in the purpose and culture?

Consider the studies of how happiness leads to success and how you can use the science of happiness to benefit not only your own life, but also your business.

If happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal, wouldn’t it be great if we could change the world and get everyone and every business thinking in that context and that framework?

Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness

What can you do to better align purpose, values, culture and happiness to benefit you, your company, and the broader community? We all have a role to play. Perhaps the starting point is simply sharing this article.

The positive ripple effects are overwhelmingly worth going for the ultimate win-win of people and performance.


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Purpose – Part 1: What’s your end game?

With a clear purpose and vision our life and business can soar, and happiness can be at the core.

I just finished reading the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the late CEO of Zappos.com. Zappos is a successful company (purchased by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion) known for its workplace culture, where happiness is at its core. The last chapter titled “End Game” really struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. Notably, the message lines up with Purpose from the happiness formula in Good Morning, Life!

Interestingly, I’ve also recently been reading lots of articles on what’s been coined “the great resignation”. In 2021 a record number of Americans quit their job. While there are a number of factors contributing to this high rate, a common theme is that workers are reevaluating their life priorities, prioritizing work passion over financial security and want to work for companies that align with their values.

It really emphasizes the importance of a clear end game or purpose for both people and businesses. This will be a two-part blog post: this first part focuses on the end game for us as people, while Part 2 will focus on companies and the link between the two.

What’s my end game?

To get people thinking about their end game, Tony Hsieh would ask them, “What’s your goal in life?” He typically got lots of different answers. Some said they wanted to start a company, some wanted to find a spouse, and others wanted to be healthy. Whatever their goal, he would follow up with “why?” He would ask why again and again after each ensuing response. Eventually the final answer inevitably came down to the same ultimate pursuit: happiness.

At our core, we all want to lead happy lives. Happiness is generally our desired end game.

While we may take different paths, our ultimate goal is the same. Instead of blindly following old behaviour patterns, we can consciously choose actions that help meet our end goal. Without being mindful about our true desired end game it’s easy to veer off our path.

How do I figure out my end game/purpose?

I recently had a speaking engagement where I walked through the happiness formula in our work context. After the session, an attendee told me that in his group’s Zoom breakout room they got into a philosophical discussion about the concept of Purpose. So I thought it’d be helpful to write this post about how we can define our Purpose in a practical way.

Creating a personal vision statement is what helped me define my purpose. I started with a list of questions. Grab a pencil and jot down notes as you ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are my dream character traits? Choose your top 3 personal character traits that are important to you. You can Google to find a list of character traits from the internet, such as this list.
  2. What energizes me?
  3. What did I enjoy doing as a child?
  4. What differentiates me from others?
  5. What is one thing I do better than anyone?
  6. What impact would I like to have on the world?
  7. What are my most fundamental beliefs?
  8. What is the greatest thing I want to achieve?

Based on your answers, create a short overarching personal vision statement (1-2 sentences). It should be present tense and action oriented.

Personal vision statement

If it helps to see an example, here is my personal vision statement:

Bring compassion and joy to the world by being authentic, doing my best, and inspiring others to be their best.

Personal vision statements can be easily referred to and mine helps me stay grounded in my purpose when faced with the many daily demands on my energy and time. My vision statement is my North Star, creating alignment between my daily actions and my end game.

My personal vision statement is about how I choose to live. I also have a core purpose statement that focuses more on what I focus my attention on. The what may change over time, so it’s always good to revisit and check in.

If life is a journey, then purpose is a compass that helps us stay
the course. And if you veer off the path, don’t be discouraged.
Replot your course and refocus on what matters most to you.

Deloitte – Defining Your Purpose Info Graphic

What’s your purpose?

What’s your purpose/end-game?

By reading or listening to Good Morning, Life!, you’ll discover the secret that happiness is not actually a future end game, it’s for today! Putting off happiness for another day is a dangerous plan. We risk getting to the end of our life and realizing that we ran out of time. Instead of spending our days being happy, we spend our days waiting to be happy.

It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.

Eckhart Tolle

Now that we’ve had a chance to dive into what brings meaning to our lives, stay tuned for Part 2. We’ll explore how purpose and happiness can come together in a symbiotic relationship for people and companies resulting in strong business performance.


Purpose and vision for happiness
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