A few years ago, I stumbled across a manuscript written by Mother Teresa, whose humanitarian work for some of the poorest populations in India earned her canonization in the Catholic Church and an iconic status in the world’s consciousness. At the time, I was entrenched in the weeds of a research project where I was tasked with identifying key motivational drivers of influential people.
Mother Teresa was among the hundreds of “case studies” I was examining, but the feelings she expressed in her writing stood out to me— they were shocking. Despite being adorned with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, among other accolades, Mother Teresa’s private manuscripts reflected the deep fear, doubt and identity struggles she held throughout her career. In essence, the public successes of a woman who seemingly could do no wrong were not enough to guarantee a deeper, personal fulfillment.
Mother Teresa’s struggles reflected the same type of pattern that was emerging in my research. Study participants were outlining motivational drivers to personal and professional success that were not able to sustain them in the long-term, deeper fulfillment of life— characteristics of entrepreneurs. Often, the entrepreneurial grit and risk that fuels some individuals to business success is only a quick visitor on the personal-fulfillment barometer. So, if a life driven by purpose is more than isolated social, professional or personal accomplishments, what are the drivers that can sustain driven leaders over time?
Research has classified 11 top drivers and nine habits of individuals in stages of high-purpose fulfillment, which affords us a snapshot of the most successful motivations, actions and habits of those at the top of the proverbial fulfillment pyramid. Knowing this can be the difference between momentary and long-term gratification. Here are the top three drivers:
1. RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY: These ranked first among the motivations for sustained fulfillment. It is important to note that corresponding actions to these beliefs (i.e., “living your faith”) are critical. Participants who aren’t actively incorporating these beliefs into their everyday life are less likely to have this sense of actualization. What does that mean for entrepreneurs? Incorporating moral, spiritual or religious values into one’s life and business is an important consideration in creating long-term meaning.
2. MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS WITH OTHERS: This type of bond can look different to each individual; however, participants with the highest scores in personal fulfillment have at least one meaningful connection with family or friends in the previous week. This reiterates the notion that we thrive within communities and strained, prolonged interpersonal relationships can be extremely problematic.
3. GOALS: Most innovators understand the importance of achieving goals, but have you considered the significance of achieving them often? Research shows that high-purpose fulfillment is directly related to accomplishing goals frequently. In doing so, our brains are positioned to expect and celebrate successes repeatedly, leading to sustained personal fulfillment. Go ahead and set a short-term goal you can accomplish this week, no matter how big or small it might be. Then do it again. And again.
Like Mother Teresa, driven leaders, such as today’s entrepreneurs, deal with the dichotomy of success and failure in public and private. But research shows that the time and energy you expend for yourself as an individual identifying how you relate to others and what that means for your business, will not only guarantee a high ROI in the short term, it could be the foundation for a life that has greater meaning for yourself and others. If you’d like to learn about the other eight drivers, just email me!
Dr. Ti’eshia Moore is an entrepreneur and former academic researcher specializing in identity and workplace effectiveness. She has served as an international humanitarian and non-profit executive in the housing sector, and is currently EO’s Vice President of Learning. Contact Ti’eshia at email@example.com.