Many people reach a fork in the road where they feel they must choose between earning more money and doing more good in the world. Perhaps a lawyer is presented with an opportunity to work for a non-profit organization or a teacher is offered a job in an underserved area.
It's those types of choices that make people think about their values. What's really most important in life? What type of legacy do I want to leave behind?
Well, new research says you might not have to make a dramatic choice between earning more money and doing something meaningful.
A Sense of Purpose Could Lead to More Money
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people who felt a sense of purpose accumulated more wealth than those who feel as though their lives lack meaning.
The researchers discovered that individuals with a sense of purpose have a higher income and a bigger net worth than those who feel as though their lives lack meaning.
Even when they controlled for known factors that predict financial success--like demographics and personality--they found a sense of purpose made a big difference in a person's financial life.
And the difference in wealth seemed to span the test of time. Over the course of 10 years, people with a sense of purpose continued to have higher incomes and bigger nest eggs than other people.
The researchers suspect people who feel their lives have meaning are goal-oriented. Looking at their long-term goals likely motivates them to develop better financial habits.
What Is Your Purpose?
Instead of living for the weekends, or counting down the years until retirement, you need a reason to get out of bed every day. And that reason needs to stem beyond money.
After all, what are you going to do with the money you earn? You need purpose beyond accumulating wealth just for the sake of it.
The good news is, you don't have to set out to change the world to have a meaningful life. Maybe your purpose is to brighten people's day at the store where you work. Or maybe your purpose is to cut people's hair so they can look and feel their best.
If you aren't sure what your purpose is, spend a little time reflecting on what you want your legacy to be. When you're 90 years and you look back on your life, what will you want to think about?
Not only will a sense of purpose help you live a more fulfilling life, it could also provide you with some added economic benefits.