Increasing Your Purpose Ratio

On any given day, you’re going to feel a certain amount of negative emotions (disappointment, sadness, anger, anxiety) and a certain amount of positive emotions (joy, excitement, love, hope). Positive Psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, calls this the Positivity Ratio. Most people go through life with a kind of 1:1 balanced ratio. When you ask them, ‘how’s it going?’ They say, ‘Just fine.’ For most of us—just fine—isn’t really how we want to spend our days. We want to be fan-friggin-tastic!

To generate more happiness in life, the goal is to try to increase the amount of positive experiences you have over the course of a day. And it turns out that with a little effort and intention, it’s not that hard to do. Take time to stop and hug a friend. Meditate for 20 minutes. Engage in a hobby you enjoy. Write down what you’re grateful for. Even modest increases in positive emotions in a day (3:1 ratio) can unleash a host of great benefits including higher level of creativity and problem-solving, increased motivation, improved health, better relationships, and all around higher levels of wellbeing.

The idea of a Positivity Ratio that you can consciously manage to generate more happiness in your life got me wondering if there wasn’t a similar Purpose Ratio at play inside organizations. On any given day you can spend your time, energy and resources on activities that fulfill the promise of your Purpose or you can spend it on activities in opposition to your Purpose—which includes those tasks that keep you perpetually distracted from focusing on your Purpose.

Just as people aren’t 100% positive or negative, companies aren’t 100% purpose-driven or not-purpose-driven. It’s a continuum. You want to always be moving in the direction of more purposeful activities.

So how might you increase the Purpose Ratio in your organization?

1) Reduce activities that distract from your Purpose (e.g. working with vendors who don’t share your values or vision, pursuing clients/customers out of sync with your Purpose, chasing conventional metrics that have nothing to do with your Purpose or just wasting an inordinate amount of time on activities that have nothing to do with your Purpose).

2) Increase activities that contribute to the fulfillment of your Purpose (e.g. Identify 2-3 initiatives that would clearly help fulfill the Purpose and make those a priority, ask how a particular item on your To Do list might provide an opportunity for fulfilling the Purpose, identify impediments to fulfilling your Purpose and set a course for dismantling them).

3) Find ways to enable the pursuit of Purpose in your organization (e.g. establish time periods dedicated to developing purpose-driven ideas, establish purpose-driven measures of success that will cause people to focus on the right activities, establish ‘meeting-free’ time periods throughout the week to ensure people have time to think).

Start where you are and begin the slow and steady process of increasing the ratio of purposeful activities.   Don’t get overwhelmed with all of the things that might be distracting you from your Purpose or the things you could or should be doing to further your Purpose. Pick 2-3 things that would increase your Purpose Ratio and see what happens.