Why does purpose matter? Five reasons.

Over at IDEO U I recently came across a great article highlighting five reasons backed with research and studies on why purpose matters. It boils down to this:

But the research is clear, individuals are more fulfilled and organizations perform better when they’re rooted in an authentic purpose.

It’s a quick and simple read with some nice colorful infographics. Here are the five reasons:

  1. Lower risk of death - “researchers found that people who demonstrate a sense of purpose in their lives have a 15% lower risk of death
  2. More fulfilled at work - “The 2015 U.S. Purpose Index study found that purpose-oriented employees have 64% higher levels of fulfillment in their work.
  3. Higher employee retention
  4. Meaning over recognition - “84 percent of millennials say that making a difference is more important than professional recognition.
  5. Higher returns for purpose-driven companies

In case you’re interested, here are the studies and research the article refers to.

  1. Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood
  2. 2016 Workforce Purpose Index Study
  3. Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement
  5. Why a Purpose-Driven Mission Is Key to Motivating Millennials
  6. Firms of Endearment

If you’re interested in more research and studies about purpose, Here's a list over here.

Wirecutter's purpose statement plus a purpose statement template for your website


I recently visited the Wirecutter website to look for recommendations for a mobile battery pack. While over there I came across their purpose statement near the top of the page.

Wirecutter supports our readers with thousands of hours of reporting and testing to help you find the stuff you need in order to live a better life.

Simple and clear.

Using this as a case study, we can come up with a purpose statement template for our own websites. Their purpose statement has four key elements:

  1. Who are you? (Wirecutter)
  2. What do you do for your customers? (Support readers with thousands of hours of reporting and testing.)
  3. How do you help your customers? (Help them find the stuff they need.)
  4. As a result, what will they achieve or become? (Live a better life.)

In template form:

[You or your company] [What do you do for your customers?] to help them [How do you help your customers?] in order to [As a result, what will they achieve or become?]

I made a simple PDF worksheet, which you can download it here.

16 quotes to start your day with purpose

I had this math teacher in my middle school that wrote a new quote at the top of the chalkboard every week. One quote that stuck with me was the one by Les Brown:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.

Ever since that math class, I fell in love with quotes.

Over the years I noted down quotes that inspired me and caught my attention. Recently, I reviewed them and decided to curate them into a nice collection I can share. It feels kind of like building playlists from music you collected over time.

As I reviewed my quotes, I found a few common threads among them. One of them was a group of words that inspires us start, to take action, and move forward and toward the goal.

Here are the ones that really struck a chord with me and I hope they will inspire you too:

  1. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. - Anne Frank
  2. What good shall I do this day? - Benjamin Franklin
  3. My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. - Dalai Lama
  4. Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman
  5. There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it's what we do with them that's important. - Jim Rohn
  6. If not us, who? If not now, when? - John F. Kennedy
  7. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. - Lao Tzu
  8. Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant. - Martin Luther King Jr.
  9. Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway. - Mary Kay Ash
  10. I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples. - Mother Teresa
  11. Let your light shine. Shine within you so that it can shine on someone else. Let your light shine. - Oprah Winfrey
  12. We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone. - Ronald Reagan
  13. If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I'm about to do today? - Steve Jobs
  14. What is my purpose in life? I was struggling with a lot of things both professionally and personally at that time. And it began to dawn on me then that the purpose of life wasn't to love your job. It was to serve humanity in a broad way. The outcome of doing that would mean that you would love your job. - Tim Cook
  15. When you're pushing to do something, you only got so much willpower. But when you're pulled, when there's something larger than yourself that you're here to serve and that you believe you're made for, that brings energy. - Tony Robbins
  16. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. - Wayne Gretzky

Bookmarks for you to print and cut out
Once I bought a magazine that came with bookmarks with quotes on them. To this day I still use them. It’s such a great idea, so I’ve decided to made the quote I collected above into bookmarks to share with you. You can find them here at this link. Print on thick paper, cut, and, voila, you have nice bookmarks.

DOWNLOAD: Purposeful Quotes Bookmarks PDF

Nine Important Questions To Uncover Your Purpose

To discover and clarify the purpose for work and projects, here’s a good framework I rely on:

Purpose is at the intersection of what we are good at (STRENGTHS), what we love to do (PASSIONS), and the needs of who we serve.

Based on this framework are nine important questions I always ask when clarifying purpose for clients’ projects.


  1. Why did you start your business? / Why do you do what you do?
  2. What do you love to do?
  3. What are your dreams?


  1. What are you good at?
  2. What resources do you have?
  3. How does your offering benefit who you serve?

Needs Of Who You Serve

  1. Who do you serve?
  2. What do they need or want?
  3. Why do they have that need or want?

I’ve prepared a mini poster with these nine questions for you to stick on your wall, whiteboard, or fridge. It’s in PDF format and there are two copies of the poster on the page. Print it out, cut it in half, and share the other half with a friend or coworker.

Tim Cook explains what purpose is

Speaking at Oxford last fall, one of the topics Tim Cook talked about was purpose:

I have begun to think through... What is my purpose in life? I was struggling with a lot of things both professionally and personally at that time. And it began to dawn on me then that the purpose of life wasn’t to love your job. It was to serve humanity in a broad way. The outcome of doing that would mean that you would love your job.

You can find the video here.

LINK: In Conversation with Apple CEO Tim Cook - The Oxford Foundry Launch

LINK: You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It

LINK: You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It

Over at HBR, John Coleman addresses three misconceptions about purpose:

  1. Purpose is only a thing you find.
  2. Purpose is a single thing.
  3. Purpose is stable over time.

My favorite quote from the article:

In achieving professional purpose, most of us have to focus as much on making our work meaningful as in taking meaning from it. Put differently, purpose is a thing you build, not a thing you find.

And regarding it’s ok to change your purpose:

This evolution in our sources of purpose isn’t flaky or demonstrative of a lack of commitment, but natural and good. Just as we all find meaning in multiple places, the sources of that meaning can and do change over time. My focus and sense of purpose at 20 was dramatically different in many ways than it is now, and the same could be said of almost anyone you meet.

A quick and insightful And read.