Continuing with the personal rewards of social purpose, next is creativity which emerges naturally through necessity as we encounter obstacles to our goals or contemplate maximum effect. the example of Benjamin Franklin whose noble purpose in 1784 was to represent the United States in the French court. There he found he could understand French better if he could see the expressions of the speakers but also needed to record notes, so in a moment of genius sawed his eyeglass lenses in half and combined them to invent bifocals.1 Many common examples apply in our more mundane work lives such as with problem solving, project management, team building activities, customer service, etc. And of course those who choose an artistic field experience the full force of their creativity.
A fourth personal benefit of social purpose is the exercise and consolidation of virtue. Some missions are intrinsically virtuous such as helping the homeless while others are the arena of the honing of virtue such as business where ethics are essential or politics where a moral compass is vital. Aristotle tells us virtue is a habit and like other habits one in which we initially progress awkwardly but in which we finally find pleasure in mastery. No venue like one’s social purpose is more apropos of this. The result is at last satisfaction in the achievement of purpose, the virtuosity of competence, and the realization of virtue.
Next comes contentment which is the subject of the next large section on this site. For now, it is worth noting that each human being is a basket of emotions, idiosyncrasies, and foibles which undermine contentment. Ordered work, particularly for a worthy goal, is an outlet where calm is attained by suppression of our defects. Professionalism then offers a kind of serenity which can be experienced on a day to day basis, and intense focus on work allows us to stay in the present moment which is a critical feature of contentment.
A seventh benefit of social purpose derives from interactions with the world that increase our understanding of life and what it means to be human. It forces us to face the big picture of our existence and figure out where meaning is found in a way impossible through idleness or recreation. Last, social purpose is one, and perhaps the main expression of individual authenticity. The unwavering dedication to that which one believes is worthy of a lifetime commitment becomes the statement of one’s raison d’etre and the ultimate manifestation of one’s authenticity in the panoply of human civilization.
1Bronowski, J, The Ascent of Man. Little, Brown, and Company, 1973. Page 271.