Finding Motivation: Purpose in [Home] School and [House] Work

This series was inspired by my reading of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink.

What is Purpose?

purpose, (pur-puhs)

  1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
  3. determination; resoluteness.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink summarizes our desire for purpose:

Humans, by their nature, seek purpose – to make a contribution and to be part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.

This reminded me of a quote from Roots of American Order, which I never did finish:

For men, their acts must have significance. […] They must have purpose in their existence. And what is that purpose? Why, to glorify God, to know Him and enjoy Him forever.

How do we find mastery and purpose in our work in the home?  How do we stay motivated to stay the course even when it's hard? The answer might surprise you.

Knowing Our Purpose

As Christians, we know what our ultimate purpose is. But knowing the right answer intellectually is not the same as owning it and working it out in our daily life. Our purpose, if we own it, motivates us like nothing else can. If we find ourselves unmotivated to do the right thing, it is an indication that we either do not see how the task aligns with and moves us toward our purpose or we actually have some alternate purpose like making life as easy and comfortable as possible. To glorify God is an all-encompassing purpose that gives significance to even the most mundane bits of life as well as its worst trials and sufferings. We need to keep it fixed before us and let it be the filter through which we interpret our choices and base our choices. In all our roles and responsibilities we have lesser purposes, as well. Do we know what they are? Are they consistent with our ultimate purpose, our chief end?

Do not only we ourselves, but our children also, understand our purpose? Do both we and they work with a significance, a purpose? Or is our purpose to put forth as little effort as required? Or is their purpose to escape the wrath of Mom? How can we help them see their mission, their significance, and their purpose as something eternally worthwhile, while they are still young?

Purpose in the [Home] School

  • Do you have a purpose-filter through which you can pass decisions like which curriculum to use or how much work constitutes “enough”? What end are you striving toward in education? Having an educational theory with a definition (a purpose) of education helps focus all the myriad of choices and diminish pressure, guilt, or envy.
  • Do your students know why they have to read that book or do math drills or practice handwriting? If you’re getting a lot of resistance in a subject area, it could be because all they see is busy work without a point. Help them to see the point, in a winsome and compelling way (not “because I said so” or “because everyone else does it”). If you don’t have a compelling reason behind the choice, then maybe you should reconsider the requirement.


  • Is school and work aimed at maturing your children into responsible adults? Children are generally quite motivated by the purpose of growing up. Use that, don’t try to minimize it or even squash it because you wish they would stay little forever. Remind your children of the biblical principle, “He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much” and “Do not despise the day of small things.” The little and the small are the starting points, the practice, the baby steps toward responsible adulthood. Help your children to see that purpose and direction, and you will likely see motivation skyrocket.


Purpose in [House] Work

So, why do we clean the house? Is it so the house stays clean? That purpose brings frustration and stress, because it never does stay clean. No, the purpose of a clean kitchen is to be ready to be used and messed again. The purpose of an orderly home is to provide an atmosphere of beauty for the people who will use it and mess it up and learn to clean it up. The purpose of washing the laundry is so that it might be worn and dirtied again.

Think about the underlying purpose motivation you feel as you work. Does it move you from love or from stress? Does it move you toward cheerful work or toward frustration? Is it aligned with the truth of your ultimate purpose? A right perspective does wonders both for motivation and attitude, but it is a heart issue that involves a lot of wrangling and prayer, not merely a knowledge of the correct answer.

Let us work toward our purpose heartily, knowing that we will reap in due season if we do not give up.

Discovering What Motivates

  1. Review: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
  2. How Not to Motivate: Extrinsic Rewards
  3. Motivating without Stickers: Intrinsic Motivation
  4. Finding Motivation: Autonomy in [Home] School and [House] Work
  5. Finding Motivation: Mastery in [Home] School and [House] Work
  6. Finding Motivation: Purpose in [Home] School and [House] Work

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  1. What a fantastic post, thank you. After an epic fail from me today I can see how important it is for me to revisit my purpose, which is not just to make it to bedtime!

    1. Sometimes making it to bedtime does feel like an accomplishment. :)

      Epic fails are sometimes what we need to keep us humble or wake us up and get our attention. It happens to me all the time.

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