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The Meaning of Happiness, Women Roar & Founders Therapy

Weekly eNews Update #61

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October 9, 2017

Are You Happy?

Whoa…that’s a loaded question. By no means do we intend to incite an existential crisis, or cause you to quit your job, so please… stick with this for a minute.

Happiness is popular subject these days. We assess countries on a global happiness index. Organizations and corporations remain keenly focused on boosting employee morale with fun, happiness-inducing interventions like ice-cream socials, team bonding activities, and the occasional dress-down day.

This week, we’re asking, what would happen if organizations focused on promoting meaning instead of simply encouraging happiness?

First off, the minions would be pretty upset.

Really, there’s more to work-life balance that just being happy or having a sky high salary. That’s what the research shows. Fulfillment both on and off the job is part of the answer. Because, some of us have to work.

Imagine if we took the time design our interpersonal and work environments with an eye towards enhancing meaning; perhaps our organizations would experience increased productivity, meeting impact objectives, and employee engagement.

What if we recast our roles as supervisors, bosses, or CEOs to enablers of meaning, both in terms of employee responsibilities and overall work experience?

In her book, “The Power of Meaning,” Emily Esfahani Smith proposes four-pillars for defining and cultivating a personal sense of meaning. This model applies equally to our professional lives:

Belonging: Defined as relationships where you are valued for who you are intrinsically. Consider the words we use to describe those who fill positions in our org chart. Instead of focusing on a recitation of a team members’ job description, try describing the value he or she bring to the role. People are assets. They begin to identify as such when appreciated not just for what they do, but also for the special talents they add to the equation.

Purpose: Using individual strengths to serve others, which may or may not be linked to a designated career. To what extent do we take a “personal” approach to team member engagement? When is the last time you took a moment to inquire what makes your employees tick? To the extent feasible, explore strategies for aligning work life with expressed areas of passion, or at the minimum, acknowledge with honesty that external interests are important and valued.

Transcendence: These are the experiences that move you beyond the day-to-day hustle and bustle…much getting lost in an enchanting musical performance . And, rarely, if ever, do employees experience a sense of disconnection from the press of work obligations, travel schedules, or the shear mountains of email communications. Maybe it’s a meditation space, regular artistic performances, or even video game stations. By whatever means necessary, make it happen.

Storytelling: This encompasses the individual narrative we create about ourselves. Do you provide opportunities for employees to define the scope of their contribution to your organization? Are evaluations reciprocal or one-sided? Empowering team members to craft their narratives is great way to establish ownership, increased responsibility, and develop leadership skills.

Some would argue that employees should look beyond their jobs from which to draw meaning. But, that’s no excuse for our professional homes—the spaces where we spend the majority of our waking hours—not to be places in which we can find even a modicum of meaning. That’s one answer to the meaning of happiness.


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