An intro to the New Paths to Purpose project

There may be no greater resource for human achievement than the sense of purpose. Purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is meaningful to the self, and often is of consequence to the world beyond the self*.  Purpose provides a guiding light as we forge a path through the frenzy and chaos of modern life.  To move forward, leaders must offer a vision of the future that inspires.  Innovators must take necessary risks on ideas, methods, and collaborators.  People need to believe in human potential and act on our capacities for noble and responsible self-determination.  Yet lives of purpose are undermined daily by obstacles that we fail to anticipate, and thus to overcome.

To address this problem, the Center for Decision Research (CDR) at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business has launched “Enhancing the Human Experience through Behavioral Science: New Paths to Purpose,” a 3-year, $3.6 million project aimed at transforming how we think about and experience purpose.  At the heart of this effort is a determination to engage an ever-expanding community of minds addressing this central question: How might individuals actively shape—rather than merely inhabit—their environments, and thus become more purposeful, powerful creators of their destiny?

Over the course of the project, our core team of internationally renowned scientists will devote themselves to this aim through four focal initiatives:

  • Behavioral science research at the CDR that will help to reshape understandings of the human experience of purpose
  • An ambitious expansion of the behavioral study of purpose by supporting related research at other institutions
  • Translation of project insights into educational offerings that can inspire present and future citizens of the world
  • Outreach activities to help communicate with and involve external audiences

Leading this project are Richard Thaler, Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, and Eugene Caruso, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science.  Backed by their vision, initiative, and outreach, the project has established its foundation in four ambitious research agendas, described here.

* Our definition of purpose comes from:
Damon, W., Menon, J., & Bronk, K. (2003). The development of purpose during adolescence.  Applied Developmental Science, 7, 119-128.

See a video introduction to the New Paths to Purpose project here.