Career Satisfaction: Purpose, Autonomy, and Mastery

Peter Diamandis has written two books worth reading: Abundance and Bold.  Diamandis is a true visionary immersed in a dizzying area of big projects related to human longevity, space, and entrepreneurship.

In relation to career counseling, Diamandis believes that there are three components necessary for happiness and success: purpose, autonomy, and mastery.  I was delighted to read because I have been preaching the same for years.

Purpose: You have to care about your work.  The “why” you work will get you through the mundane. In 1990, I was in law school and serving as an intern for the US Attorney’s office.  My job was to review microfiche in order to find a piece of evidence against a corrupt politician.  For those too young to know what I’m discussing, consider going frame by frame through a movie.  The “why” was compelling enough for me to like doing work that was extraordinarily tedious – “I’m helping to catch a Congressman take a bribe.”

Autonomy: Stacy told me about her work in a family business in Chesire, Connecticut.  She did feel purposeful.  Her grandfather had started the company.  She very much liked that she was helping to keep the family business legacy going into the future.  She also felt like she was good at her job as a sales rep (a reasonable amount of mastery, see below).  But her older sister and father micromanaged her.  Stacy’s sister would directly criticize her a few times per week.  Her father, while more gentle, would express disappointment in more subtle ways. The lack of autonomy was enough to make Stacy seek a better career fit.

Mastery: Being great a job provides both security and satisfaction.  Not being great causes the converse.  Dave came to see me because he was going through the motions in his job at a large company in Fairfield, CT.  ”I’m not bad at what I do.  But I’m not great, largely because I really don’t care that much about the job.  I really want to be great at something.”

Go through your job.  How does it rate on the Purpose, Autonomy, Mastery score card?