Post By: Steve Graef, PhD | Friday, March 6, 2020


A double rainbow! What does it all mean!? People like meaning. Most of us seek the purpose for the various quests we find ourselves on. And when meaning or purpose eludes us we get a bit rattled. We want to know the meaning of life, a layoff, a let down, a loss. So meaning manages. Purpose propels. Here are a few reasons why.

Meaning is motivational. According to Self-determination Theory one of the major reasons why meaning is important is because it leads to engaging and sustaining desired behaviors. For instance, if someone start's exercising because a doctor told him he had to, that exercise behavior might not last long. However, if this person not only heeds doc's advice, but also deepens it by identifying a purpose that he wants to remain on earth awhile to see his children grow, that would strengthen the motivational meaning behind his exercise behavior. It's going to be more difficult to not do that workout if that purpose is attached it. Why? Because meaning is motivational.

Meaning is inspirational. One of the key strategies for any organization or team going through changes is to connect to the reasons why. Perhaps by going back to the group's mission or vision. Going back to this foundation can elicit a sense of greater meaning and purpose behind the changes, which can inspire and influence others to get behind the decision. In Simon Sinek's book “Start with Why” he details the importance of leading off such decisions with a strong case of “why.” This case should have a heavy dose of meaning and purpose. Why? Cause meaning and purpose inspires.

Meaning is aspirational. To aspire is to direct one's hopes towards achieving something. Hope is a very powerful emotion and can help humans manage many of life's realities, including suffering. Such is the case in the famous book, by Viktor Frankl. In this book, Frankl is faced with the incredibly harsh realities of a nazi death camp. Rather than succumbing to the doom and gloom that could have easily filled his mind, body, and spirit during such a heinous period, he instead choose to find purpose and meaning in his circumstances and reminded himself of what he needed to do each day to survive. His deliberate enacting of a purpose filled day, helped him manage his suffering, which lead to his survival. Meaning helps keep you going because meaning is aspirational.

Conclusion. Regardless of whatever life pursuit we are on, there are times where we need to do something, change something, or deal with something. How can you use meaning to your advantage? If you are a coach, choreographer, agent, manager, how can you apply meaning to enhance action, inspire change, and manage suffering in yourself, as well as in your team members? Meaning matters, will you try it?