Are You Living Your Life’s Purpose?

Aligning your values with your work impacts your job satisfaction and health. Research from McKinsey has found that “people who say they are ‘living their purpose’ at work report levels of well-being that are five times higher than those of people who aren’t.” Not surprisingly, these individuals are also more engaged in their work.


McKinsey developed a matrix based on nine personal values that are recognized across cultures. I recreated the matrix below.



The horizontal axis reflects how we direct our activities from self to others. The vertical axis reflects our drive to expand our sense of self (agency) to our drive to cooperate (integration).


In a study of 509 people from diverse backgrounds and occupations, McKinsey researchers found the following three common purpose archetypes based on the nine values:

  • Free spirit: They tend to find meaning in situations where they control what they do and when they do it.

  • Achiever: They find purpose in accumulating social or material resources; they often find meaning in self-improvement.

  • Caregiver: They find meaning in choosing how and when they care for others; they care less about material gain or what others think of them.

A “purpose audit” can be used to explore how your work fits into the bigger picture of your life. In addition to this interactive tool you can use to better understand the values that drive your purpose, the authors of the McKinsey report provide the following questions for reflection:

  • When do you feel most alive?

  • What is your purpose?

  • Do you feel like you are living it?

  • What barriers prevent you from living it more fully?

  • How—if at all—have recent events changed the way you think about purpose?


Complement this article with Work that is Real.



Additional Reading


Dhingra, N., Emmett, J., Samo, A. (2020). Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis. McKinsey.


Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An overview of the Schwartz theory of basic values. Online readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1), 2307-0919.

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