I’ve decided to openly embrace my love of lowbrow television shows after realizing that so many of them have life lessons straight from a psychology text. Empire helps us learn that motivation is personal; another one of my guilty pleasure favorites, Scandal, can show us how having a meaningful and clearly articulated mission can help sustain people through challenges and keep them focused.
The mission in question, of course, is wearing the white hat. Olivia Pope and her crew of investigators/fixers pride themselves on being the righters of wrongs and the doers of good (even if, in the doing, they take a power drill to an evil henchman’s thigh, which appears painful). Their ultimate aim is always noble, even if the means they use to pursue it are not.
This focus on wearing the white hat sustains Olivia through a variety of setbacks that might otherwise break her spirit. The show sees her betrayed at various points by lovers, parents, and friends; suffering the violent loss of friends and coworkers to murder; and being abducted and raffled off to the highest bidder among international terrorists. Personally, I might get out of the fixing business after facing these particular obstacles, but Olivia shoulders on, using the white hat as a constant reminder of her purpose.
Fortunately most of us will never face situations as extreme as the ones Pope and Associates do, but we can learn something from them about defining a motivating purpose. What’s your white hat?