Purpose, Meaning, Fulfilment and Work
In this post we are going to look at the idea of purpose, meaning and fulfilment and how finding answers to these questions is going to radically improve your decision making for the better.
Contrary to popular belief these questions are not all that lofty and can be answered quite simply and practically when you understand the psychology of satisfaction.
Now before I continue I want to clarify what I am talking about when I refer to purpose, meaning and fulfilment. I am referring to the modern psychological principles of purpose, meaning and fulfilment that have been derived from research on satisfaction and fulfilment. I am not referring to pop psych, pseudo spiritual ideas.
Purpose, Meaning and Fulfilment, so what are these anyway?
The simple answer to questions of purpose and meaning is this:
“The purpose and meaning of anything in your life is whatever purpose and meaning you assign to it.”
If you asked a hundred high functioning people “What is the purpose and meaning of your life and career?” you would probably get a fairly wide range of answers, there would be some similarities of course but no two would be identical. So which answer is the right one?
The fact is there isn’t a right purpose and meaning. However before you get all depressed and anxious about existentialism, if we ask a different question we can find a better answer. If we ask the question what is the most useful purpose and meaning we can start to find better answers. But I would go even further than just asking questions of usefulness, that doesn’t sound particularly exciting. I would ask what is the most rewarding purpose and meaning I would want to assign to life and career. For me it is simple “live to the max and die happy?” What about you?
If we then ask ourselves what is the most rewarding purpose and meaning I can assign to my life and career most of us could find answers to these questions. I am not going to try to sell you on any single idea but I would recommend that you make sure your answer includes feeling good and functioning at your best in the definition.
Now I can hear all the skeptics screaming at their screens saying it’s not that simple. Unfortunately it is. The harsh reality is you are in charge of your perceptions, no one else is. You can choose to look at things in a crappy way or a better more useful and rewarding way. In any given moment you can simply ask yourself what is the most rewarding meaning I can assign to this moment or this task so that I can feel good about it. So that I can value it. So I don’t believe I am just wasting my life. Or at the very least turn a something that is difficult into something less difficult.
And Fulfilment Is?
When it comes to the question of fulfilment, that is much easier to answer. Fulfilment is simply the satisfaction of needs and wants. When healthy people satisfy their core needs and wants they feel rewarded. This may not be true in the presence of serious mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression disorders. or psychosis and personality disorders. But for the normal high functioning human being it is very largely true.
The mistake many people make however when asked questions of fulfilment, is when they reduce fulfilment down to simple pleasure seeking. This can lead to some nasty problems with addiction. Pleasure is only one element of fulfilment. It may well be a very attractive one but on it’s own it isn’t enough for you to feel like content, satisfied, proud, happy, excited, empowered, confident. Sometimes working really hard and pushing through barriers is fulfilling even though it is hard. Sometimes simply completing a task is rewarding. The trick is to ask yourself how can I approach this task or event such that I can gain some level of fulfilment from it.
Another common trap people fall for when it comes to fulfilment is to think they can have everything you want. You can’t, even if you could you would have enough time in your life to acquire or use everything you want. Everyday you need to make value judgements between competing wants. If you do this process well you can feel content knowing you getting something you want.
I can imagine the aspirationalists amongst you cringing at this idea. I can hear them screaming “But I Want It All!” Well good luck. This is a formula for serious stress and confusion. I want to make something really clear though. I am not proposing a simple carefree existence without lots of toys and nice stuff. I love my toys and stuff, they’re fun. However becoming dependent on toys and stuff can become a real trap.
Get Direction It Changes Everything!
This little blog really only scratches the surface of the whole purpose, meaning and fulfilment through work debate. We can however make some observations with a high degree of confidence. With no sense of purpose, work may become something you do to survive. You may well become directionless and feel like you’re just going through the motions. You may feel like you’re in the classic “Golden Ball and Chain Trap” working just to pay the bills and survive but not feeling particularly satisfied. You will probably make ineffective decisions or at the least decisions that aren’t as good as they could be.
Research supporting the idea that clear purpose and meaning improves effectiveness and job satisfaction is quite strong? I would highly recommend reading the book “Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace” Edited by Bryan J. Dik, Zinta S. Byrne, PhD, and Michael F. Steger, PhD available through Footprint Books in Australia and New Zealand and the American Psychological Association in the United States. It is a really good place to start understanding how to become more effective and more satisfied in work and career.
Study Fulfilment It Is Easier Than You Think
Understand the psychology of satisfaction and fulfilment. It is the first step in becoming satisfied and fulfilled. A great place is begin reading the articles on how happiness in the work place boosts productivity. Here’s a link to one from Psychology Today – “How workplace happiness can boost productivity“ Published on July 20, 2010 by Ray Williams in Wired for Success
Answer these Questions They Will Make You More Effective
Answering these questions will radically change the way you think for the better; it will significantly influence your decisions and how you utilise your skills and abilities to gain maximum effect. Your reputation for getting results will improve, your enthusiasm for work will improve, your productivity will improve.
It is very important to be adaptable, strategic, to have integrity, be a good communicator and all the rest. But what underpins all of that, the “Why” of it significantly changes the way you adapt, strategies, communicate. The “Why” alters the nuances, emphasis and directions of the “How”.
Just something to think about.