A Practical Way To Bring More Meaning In Your Work And Personal Life
This is not an article about the search for the meaning of life. Rather, it is an article about how to practically bring more meaning in your life. .. and the really good news is you don’t have to have saint-like qualities or have found a ‘calling’ to change the world in some way.
Now, if you’re a pragmatist or cynic, you might have almost stopped reading because you’re not sure if this stuff about meaning is all that important. Well, and I’m glad you’re still with me, the reality is a growing body of scientific evidence validates the importance of living a meaning-full life… where you get a real sense of meaning in your personal and work life.
For example, one research project undertaken by Steger, Oishi and Kasdan looked at how meaning in life impacted wellbeing throughout our various life stages, and found that the “more meaning in life people reported, the greater well-being they experienced, at all life stages.”
There is a concerning reality that if you’re not living a meaningful life, you may be living a meaningless life… and rather than flourishing you may be on a path to languishing… in your personal and work life.
So how can you bring more practical meaning in your life without actually discovering the meaning of life?
The more meaning in life people reported, the greater well-being they experienced, at all life stages.
Here we can turn to arguably one of the most quoted sources on meaning in life, Victor Frankl, who wrote in his book Man’s search for Meaning: “What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment”.
It was in these words that I personally discovered for myself, one link to a more meaningful life that is available to us all, and this is the focus of my own academic research as I enter into my dissertation year studying a master degree in applied positive psychology, which will be on the impact of intention, meaning, trust and relationships on life satisfaction and wellbeing.
One of the five essential ingredients for human flourishing identified by positive psychology founder, Martin Seligman, is meaning in our life (the other four are positive emotions, engagement in life, relationships and achievement). But what does it mean to have meaning in our life, and how does it help us to flourish?
In Roy Baumeister’s book Meanings of Life, he outlines his research that reveals the quest for a meaningful life can be understood in terms of four main needs for meaning.
What matters is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.
The first is the need for purpose in our life. This is about a sense that our actions and experiences today will lead toward either goal achievement or desired life fulfilment. The second is the need for values in our life. This is about having a clear set of beliefs and guiding principles about right and wrong. The third is the need for self-efficacy. This is about a belief that we can make a difference in the world in some way. And the fourth is the need for self-worth. This is a belief that we are good and worthy of love and respect.
Therefore, to live a meaningful life is one where we have and take intentional action based on clear purpose, values, efficacy and self-worth.
Research by Fave, Brdar, Wissing and Vell-Brodrick shows that we get this sense of meaning (and fulfillment of the four needs for meaning) from multiple sources in our lives including our family, work, religion, experiences and pursuits , however, the main sources across a diverse range of cultures and age groups are from our relationships.
Combining research about the importance of finding meaning in a person’s life at a given moment and these other researchers in positive psychology identifying the importance of relationships as a source of meaning, we now have the basis for a practical process, available to us all, in which to bring what I refer to as more small-m meaning in our personal and work lives.
In fact, just as some medications aimed at addressing one issue can have additional advantageous side effects, I discovered this practical way of bringing small-m meaning into our lives as an additional benefit to implementing my Intentionomics Trust Model.
To live a meaningful life is one where we have and take intentional action based on clear purpose, values, efficacy and self-worth.
Basically the process is this:
Step 1: Identify the various life roles you have (personal and work)
Step 2: List the people you impact through your various life roles
Step 3: Write out intention statements for each of the people (or groups, for example ‘clients’) – an intention statement is about what you want for the person, not what you want from them.
Step 4: With clarity of intention, now you can get clear on what you can and can’t promise the people you’ve written out your intention statements for… in other words, you determine your intentional promises.
Step 5: Now that you’re clear on your intentional promises you can and can’t make to the people you impact through your various life roles, you’re able to get clear about your intentional actions and behaviours that will help you deliver on your intentional promises.
Step 6: If you’re implementing your intentional actions to deliver on your intentional promises, which are based on clear intentions for the people you impact through your various life roles, you will be delivering intentional results.
What this process does, is provide you with what Frankl referred to as finding meaning in living your life in every given moment with intention. By intentionally focusing on creating value for others you impact in your work and personal lives, you are, by default, living a meaningful life.
And when you do, as this growing body of research on the value of developing and living a more meaning-full life – a life more full of meaning, you will reap the rewards of higher life satisfaction and well-being across your life span.
Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe ExchangeGain Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!