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Thrive on Your Core Driven Path

February 26, 2014 | Issue 02.2014

In This Issue

Note from the Trail
A New View of Meaning [Feature Article]
Recommended Resources

Note from the Trail

Hello, Trailblazer!

We are about to enter our final month of classes in the introductory coaching course I’m teaching. We’ve spent over six months together already, meeting weekly for our tele-classes. They have also met by phone in pairs or trios to practice their coaching skills and discuss the ethical guidelines and core competencies of coaching in the ICF model.

Our time together has changed all of us. We have been lightened by humor, inspired by people stepping out of their comfort zones, humbled by the respect and consideration shown to one another, and moved when we have shared difficult times in each other’s journeys.

The experience is meaningful for all of us. We have grown and learned through our connections with each other. While there have been some “aha!” moments, we haven’t had a mountaintop experience.

Meaning in our daily lives is the theme of this month’s feature article. Social psychology is shaking things up by studying how we experience meaning. It’s definitely not about a profound understanding of transcendent purpose. Dr. Laura King is being a Trailblazer by taking on preconceived notions and offering a new perspective.

We like that!

Let’s go find meaning in our time out on the trail ~

Stephen Coxsey, MA, CMC
Leadership Development Coach

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A New View of Meaning :::::::::::: Feature Article ::::::::::::

What is the meaning of life?

It’s an intimidating question, as humbling as pondering the vastness of the universe. Philosophers and religious teachers have wrestled with it, debated it, and tried to define it for ages.

Yet an overwhelming majority of people rate their lives as meaningful. If meaning is so esoteric and ineffable, how is this possible?

Meaning In Life
It turns out that experiencing meaning isn’t that elusive or complicated, according to University of Missouri social psychology professor Laura King, Ph.D. Meaning is experienced when we see the connections and causal relationships around us. It’s experienced when we see patterns that help us predict the world around us and show us how to make things happen.

There are people who will spend a lot of time looking for transcendent meaning, trying to make sense of their lives as a point in time compared to the near timelessness of existence. There are people who will look for an ongoing purpose or guiding force, whether natural or supernatural, to define their lives. But most people experience meaning through their interactions on a day-to-day basis.

Notice the web of connections and causality
Experiencing meaning in this way is not a profound mountain top experience. It’s not a revealed mystery. It simply requires you to notice what’s around you.

It’s not a perfect approach because there are things we can’t understand. We struggle from time to time with the senselessness and apparent meaninglessness of natural tragedies and human destruction. But our inability to see the meaning in terrible events is usually only a brief interruption of our experience of meaning. Most of the time many aspects of our lives make sense.

Notice your ability to make things happen
To understand this, it’s helpful to think about how animals are able to figure out how a lot of things work in their environment and read cues for survival. Birds see a raptor circling in the sky and know there’s a threat, so they send out warning calls. Other birds hear the calls and know they mean threat so they react. Pavlov’s dogs figured out the bell meant they were about to be fed. The rat in Skinner’s box understood that pushing a bar would cause food to be released.

That same ability is the basis for experiencing meaning as a human being. By knowing the results of our actions, we see the purpose of what we are doing: accomplishing our objectives and affecting other people. Our own behavior makes sense when we see it as goal pursuit. The world around us makes sense when we see how to interact with it and direct it in predictable ways. Seeing goal-directed purpose and acting effectively to get predictable results give us the experience of meaning in our day-to-day lives.

It’s a simpler kind of meaning
You can still ponder the ineffable, seek out the wise old sage on the mountaintop, or spend lots of your time in reflective meditation. But be aware that research shows not only that these activities don’t help you experience meaning, they can actually interfering with experiencing meaning.

This is a different perspective because it comes from research on how people experience meaning in their lives. I don’t think it compels us to give up the search for transcendent meaning. But I do think it shows us that many people experience meaning without wrestling with difficult questions. It’s an expansive view that shows those of us who ponder the profound that we don’t have to answer those challenging questions before we can experience meaning.

Application: To increase your experience of meaning in life, do things that matter to you. Look for patterns of predictability in your world. Notice your connections with other people and the connections between people around you. See how your choices can make a positive impact on someone else’s life. And then act to make something happen. This may not give you a sense of transcendent or philosophical purpose, but you will see predictability and causality and connection, which will give you meaning in the moment.

Question: Is it satisfying to experience meaning in the moment? Does seeing these patterns and connections fulfill your need for meaning? Or do you still wrestle with discovering a deeper or more profound purpose?

You can see Dr. King’s presentation about research on the experience of meaning by clicking here.

You can access an interview of Dr. King by Ben Dean, PhD, a pioneer of positive psychology coaching, by clicking here.

Recommended Resources

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About Steve

Steve Coxsey develops leaders who thrive on a core driven path. He partners with people who want to bring the best of who they are to their leadership roles in their personal lives, professional lives, or businesses. He helps people cultivate their strengths and natural talents so they can take ownership of their productivity and creativity.

Then they become powerful, breaking free of other people’s boxes and cubicles and living and working in alignment with who they really are. They design their lives around their values, their purpose, and their natural way of being. They tailor careers that use their unique strengths and talents and complement their life design.

Would you like that to be you? Get started with a no-risk 30-40 minute consultation. It’s complimentary, so all it will cost you is a little bit of time. You can schedule the complimentary call using this online tool. You can also call 817-416-8971 or e-mail Steve@SteveCoxsey.com to set up the call.

Click here for more information than you could possibly ever want to know about Steve.

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