We administered a semistructured interview that questioned participants about their goals, values, influences, career and life histories, and views of the business world. The interview usually took about two or three hours, although there were a few that went longer or shorter. We told about half the participants that we were interviewing them because they had demonstrated high achievement and moral excellence in their careers. For the other half, as a research control, we simply said that we were interviewing them because of their high achievement. With just one exception, there were no perceptible differences in the two sets of interviews. (The one exception was that the group with whom we used the word moral made somewhat more mention of their philanthropic contributions.) On the main issues covered in this book, the two sets of interviews were essentially the same, so I have used them together for the sake of my conclusions here.
A. Colby and W. Damon, Some Do Care: Contemporary Lives of Moral Commitment, New York: Free Press, 1992.
There has been an enormous amount written about the relation between morality and self-interest, some of which reduces one to the other (Ayn Rand) and some of which sets the two apart in stark contrast (Adam Smith). Often the terms are used idiosyncratically, so it is hard to compare the different opinions on the matter. For the present purposes, I am using the terms as one encounters them in the common vernacular, to indicate either an orientation toward the good of others, the codes of society and God (morality), or an orientation toward promoting one’s own narrow, moment-to-moment personal desires (self-interest). This is a distinction that most people immediately recognize, despite its philosophic/semantic shortcomings; and it is a distinction that makes a marked difference in the capacity of any person’s behavior to do good or harm in the world.
For a historical account, see M. Novak, Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life, New York: Free Press, 1996.
W. Damon, The Moral Child: Nurturing Children’s Natural Moral Growth, New York: Free Press, 1990.
W. Damon, J. Menon, and K. Bronk, “The Development of Purpose during Adolescence,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 3 (2002): 115–27.
H. Gardner, M. Csikszentmihalyi, and W. Damon, Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Colby and Damon, Some Do Care.
M. Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, New York: Free Press, 2002; M. Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Seligman, Authentic Happiness; Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow; and R. Emmons, The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality, New York: Guilford Press, 1999.