Getting What You Want May Not Be What You Need

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This blog post by our founder and CEO Eileen Gittins was excerpted in our March newsletter. Here it is start-to-finish:

I grew up listening to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want (But You Can Get What You Need).” They may have got it backwards.

Daniel Pink in his new book, “Drive” suggests that the real secret to high performance and satisfaction is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Wow. This sounded a lot like the mission statement we wrote in 2005, and frankly, are still working to achieve. I decided to read on…

The book details a recent University of Rochester study that surveyed students with two kinds of goals: extrinsic, meaning to get rich, famous or otherwise be “profit-driven,” and intrinsic, meaning to learn, grow, help others improve their lives i.e., be purpose-driven.

A year or two after graduation, the folks in both groups who were attaining their goals reported thusly: the purpose-goals people reported higher levels of satisfaction than when they were in college whereas the profit-goals people reported levels of satisfaction that were no higher than when they were students. In other words, this group was reaching their goals but it didn’t make them any happier. Even more notable was that these profit-goals people showed increases in anxiety, depression and other negative attributes. Hmmm… not so good.

Funny, though. I often describe Blurb as a “happy” company. Having read Pink’s book, I now understand at least one of the reasons why: we give people a deeply human and tangible way to create, share, inform, remember, and give. That’s pretty happy.

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  1. It’s a funny thing about ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. When we break ourselves away from the organized systems that we have built for ourselves all we have is the intrinsic nature of need, that of survival in it’s most primeval state. Every other layer that gets set on top of that is simply that of ‘want’. Though as a human maybe our want is based upon a function of need. Either way the stones still had it right, for there is one line that is crucial that was missing, “but if you TRY some times, you just might find. You can get what you need.”

    The intrinsic people in the University of Rochester study are more content because they are trying in their careers based on a humanistic need, a level on which we all can connect. The effort is not simply put in for self gratification but rather as a means to connect ourselves with our surrounding world and one another. In the end, on that level of trying you just might find, you can get what you need.


    By jason
      March 19, 2010 – 7:47 am   Permalink
  2. Very good post and inspiring with the meaningful stuff.

    By Calin
      March 21, 2010 – 1:06 pm   Permalink
  3. I think the problem with having extrinsic goals, particularly profit-driven goals, is that it can so easily be measured. This makes it easy to know when you have reached your goal, but also means you can see clearly when someone else has surpassed you. Thereby creating comparisons and jealousy. When your goal is intrisic, it is very difficult to measure, and compare, and hence the value in it is not reaching the goal, but the process of working towards it.

    So keep working on it.

      March 21, 2010 – 3:31 pm   Permalink
  4. I totally agree… its how I live my life: goals from the heart, not from the head:). My experience has shown me that is the way that my life unfolds and it makes me happy…

      September 15, 2010 – 5:13 pm   Permalink

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