Exploring Meaning Beyond Purpose

In the webinar Leading with Purpose, Teryluz Andreu and Michelle Hollingshead had a conversation about the multifaceted nature of meaning in life and work, as explained in Michelle´s book Meaning Indicator .  One of the key concepts of the book is a definition of meaning that is much broader than purpose. 

Michelle elaborated on the key dimensions of meaning, sharing insights from her research project, which included a comprehensive literature review of positive psychology and assessments conducted since the 1950s. She highlighted four key dimensions of meaning: comprehension, purpose, significance, and belonging.

  • Comprehension involves understanding one’s identity and the factors that have shaped it. This dimension parallels organizational identity, as organizations also need to continuously ask, “Who are we?” and “Who are we becoming?”
  • Purpose is about direction and goals, both individually and collectively. It’s crucial for individuals to connect their personal sense of purpose with the shared mission of their organization.
  • Significance, a concept Michelle found particularly intuitive and exciting, involves having a sense that we matter. Recent studies, and the impact of the pandemic, underscored the importance of understanding what truly matters in life and work.
  • Finally, belonging addresses the human need to be part of something greater while also seeking growth and expansion. This dimension involves balancing the tension between belonging and aspiring beyond current circumstances. Organizations need to create environments where individuals feel they are part of a larger purpose while also supporting their personal growth.

When individuals connect with these dimensions, it significantly impacts their motivation and the quality of their engagement in all areas of life.

Finding Deeper Meaning During Challenges​

In their discussion, Teryluz and Michelle delved into how leaders can help their teams find deeper meaning when facing external challenges. The importance of creating conditions that allow for the honest expression of feelings, which can lead to emotional mastery[Potential link a prox webinar] and curiosity include:

  • Acknowledging feelings: Leaders need to create a safe space for team members to express what is real and true for them. By addressing feelings openly, leaders can help their teams identify underlying needs and move through challenges more skillfully, avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Leaders’ self-development: Leaders must also focus on their own development. Effective leadership involves continuous personal growth and showing up authentically. Leaders need to invest in their development through community and connection, demonstrating emotional intelligence and resilience.
  • Ongoing conversations: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for finding meaning during tough times. Instead, it involves ongoing, quality conversations. Culture changes one conversation at a time and leaders should strive to be aware, clear, and present in their interactions, fostering an environment where deeper meaning can emerge.

By creating a supportive atmosphere for emotional expression, investing in their own growth, and maintaining continuous, meaningful conversations, leaders can help their teams find deeper meaning and build resilience during challenging times.

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