Throughout history, philosophers have extolled the importance of purpose, autonomy, and mastery as the core principles of intrinsic value. At the heart of a fulfilling professional life, these values were espoused by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Marcus Aurelius. Each of these philosophers believed that a life lived in service of one’s purpose, with the freedom to make choices and the drive to improve continually, was the path to true happiness.
Plato believed that the ultimate goal of life was to attain knowledge and that this could only be done through a disciplined pursuit of truth and understanding. He saw purpose as the guiding principle that gave meaning and direction to one’s life. By aligning one’s work with one’s purpose, he believed, individuals could achieve a state of happiness and fulfillment.
Aristotle believed that purpose was the key to happiness, but he also placed great importance on autonomy. He believed that individuals should have the freedom to make choices, which was essential to a fulfilling life. He saw mastery as the result of pursuing one’s purpose and that it was through mastery that individuals could achieve excellence and achieve their full potential.
Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic philosopher, believed that happiness could be found in the present moment. He saw purpose as the foundation of a meaningful life but also placed great importance on mastering one’s emotions and practicing self-reflection. He believed that by living in alignment with one’s values and practicing gratitude and mindfulness, individuals could find happiness and peace even in the face of adversity.
In our modern world, where the pace of life is often frenetic and the demands on our time and attention are many, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of intrinsic values in our professional lives. But as I have come to understand through my own experience, when we lose our sense of purpose, autonomy, and mastery, we lose our sense of self, and our professional lives become joyless and unfulfilling.
I remember a time in my own life when I felt disconnected from my purpose. I was going through the motions but felt adrift as if I was no longer in control of my life. I felt a sense of frustration and unhappiness that was all-encompassing. It was only when I began to focus on my intrinsic values and make deliberate choices to align my work with my purpose that I found peace and fulfillment again.
In abandoning the pursuit of my intrinsic values, I had lost sight of what was truly important to me and had become disconnected from my authentic self. By realigning my professional life to take my intrinsic values into account, I have found great peace and happiness.
The importance of intrinsic values in our professional lives cannot be overstated. They give meaning and direction to our work and provide the foundation for a life lived in service of our purpose. Whether the teachings of Plato guide us, Aristotle or Marcus Aurelius, the importance of purpose, autonomy, and mastery remains unchanged. They are the keys to a life lived with purpose and to a fulfilling, meaningful, and joyful professional life.