Meaning@Work and Meaning4Life

I have been thinking a lot recently about meaning in the workplace and more holistically meaning in life and wanted to share some powerful insights from recent experiences:

On Wednesday 13th November I had the fortune to be taken by my dear colleague John to a Meaning@Work seminar set up by the Positivity Institute with Associate professor Michael Steger from Colorado University.

Meaning at Work

Michael has a wonderful energy and I was enthralled with his presentation based around his Meaningful work model (Steger, Dik & Duffy 2013). He started the session by calling it Wellbeing Wednesday (which I loved and have pitched to the IECL!)– a day to focus on gaining energy from work:

My key takeaways below:

Meaningful Work Model (and how I connect with it, how do you?):

  1. Work must have a point or purpose in an organisation (My work in client relations and partnerships directly correlates to innovative solutions for clients and holistic leadership development initiatives that achieve results including engagement increases)
  2. Work that resonates with life meaning (Our mission at the IECL is to develop the next generation of leaders which resonates with part of my life meaning to inspire and mobilise the next generation)
  3. Work that serves some greater good (We are striving to create sustainable workplaces for the future through our connected leadership practice, always more that can be done here!)

Meaningful work is:

  • More personally involved than satisfaction
  • Deeper and more sustained than engagement (i.e. staff surveys)
  • More outward looking than job identification
  • Stimulates wellbeing more than commitment

Research shows there is desire for meaningful work places, which has been shown to triumph over pay, promotion and job choices. Recent research by Deloitte shows 70% of employers and employees believe org’s don’t provide purpose.

We should think of colleagues like our neighbours and do the small gestures of kindness we see with community spirit, i.e. lending a helping hand, filling up the communal water jug, washing our dirty coffee cups properly (create a culture where all feel a responsibility). This is something I know I need to be more mindful of during those busy, high pressure days. I love the Wake up project’s Kindness cards, PWC recently partnered with them to launch a kindness campaign!

Meaningful work benefits – increased job satisfaction, career commitment, intrinsic motivation, meaning in life, strengths endorsement, strengths utilisation, flow experiences at work

Meaningful work is relevant to all sides of the economic equation- leaders and followers, executives and employees

Meaningful Work

Here are a couple of acronyms Michael made up specifically for this session which I found useful:

  • CARMA for leaders in organisation’s – Clarity of vision, Authenticity, Respect, Mattering, Autonomy – My key takeaways here were that a lack of respect destroys meaning at work, peoples work must make a point and autonomy is crucial to provide opportunity for self-direction, trial and error and innovation
  • SPIRE for individuals – Strengths, Personalisation, Integration, Resonance and Expansion –  Key takeaways here were acknowledging strengths in a non comparing way – those within us, enabling people to discover and utilise their unique strengths and talents (we utilise a strengths based approach at the IECL) and allowing personalisation for workers to find ways to bring a sense of who they are to work

One of Michael’s closing comments when asked a question on the difference between meaning and purpose was meaning is abstract – purpose is drive which I will close his session reflection with.


Finding Your True Calling – Client offsite experience with one of our amazing Associate Coaches and Facilitators Jill Danks

Positivity Institute

I had the pleasure of experiencing a powerful self reflection process at a session facilitated yesterday for one of our key clients.

The facilitator Jill took us on a journey adopting a coaching approach through the young you, your values, responsible you, your gremlins and what do you yearn for. My reflections below (I would encourage you to reflect on these areas):

Young You – When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up? My reflection included a PE teacher as a small child, lawyer at high school, sports scientist at college and then a sports marketer at uni! Here we thought about our dreams and what fired you up and made you feel alive at uni. For me in was engaging in robust household debates with peers and playing hockey against all the elements (Jill challenged us with have we lost that in our adult lives?)

Your Values – Reflecting on what really matters to you and whether they’re being lived in your life. My top values included family, health, meaning, challenge and creativity. When I think of them all I feel I am living health, meaning, challenge and creativity through my work, athletic pursuits and WAG pamper sessions. I felt the need to focus more on family which was number one, living overseas you can get caught up in a busy world and it’s important to have regular check ins with your loved ones. I do this but not as much as I’d like. I took an action to call my dear Grandma!

Responsible You – Thinking about when you started work, got married or had kids, what did you give up that mattered to you? For me when I started work in London after uni in the dynamic world of sports marketing (with a big commute) I gave up valuable ‘me time’ including my vigorous exercise schedule, reading and flexibility to roam in the outdoors. This is more balanced here at the IECL in Australia. Having recently gotten married you do give up part of your previous family life to set up with your partner. I have an incredibly close relationship with my sister and although this will always be there it is different from when you lived at home together and hung out all the time. I have lots of friends who are mothers and speak about giving up their freedom with having children. This doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t huge but it’s useful to reflect on what you have given up and if you can find ways to get some of it back.

Your Gremlins – Jill challenged us, when you think about doing things for yourself, what do your gremlins say (those inner voices in your head)?!. For me although I’m learning to manage them things come up like you’re too busy, wait until you have time. With learning to swim it was you can’t swim, you’re from the UK, Pommies can’t swim! (when we all know there are some great UK swimmers!). Being aware of your inner critic and champion which we teach in our Level 2 in Organisational Coaching is very powerful. The position on the balcony of observing the inner conversation and making meaning from it has helped me immensely.

What do you Yearn for? Jill took us through a meditative practice of discovering any sensory yearnings we had. In the categories I found yearnings for: Creative (painting, writing), Career (speak your truth, give back to the industry) Self Nurture (kayaking, running through the countryside, splashing in the waves) Community Service (mentoring others) Relationship (reconnecting with family, having fun)


To help this process we walked around a beautiful collection of image cards to see what connected with us. I connected with a stacked rock image that created a sensory feeling for being outdoors and climbing mountains, a sports field where I yearned for that freedom on a hockey pitch, a lion which reminded me of family trips at the zoo, yearning for family time, a sunset which triggered a sensory feeling for travel and a graveyard which made me yearn for my Grandpa who had a very strong influence on my life.

To conclude Jill in true coaching style asked us to commit to a SMART action and to think about what we need to let go of.

Like Jill, I would love to see more time for reflective practice in the workplace, the value of quiet time is immense. I am inspired by Jill to read Einstein’s autobiography which shows how much quiet time he had, one period leading to the theory of relativity insight.


Jill has a great vision for a corporate silence day which I truly endorse! Would love to hear any thoughts on meaning@work and meaning4life from my valued readers. 

4 Comments on “Meaning@Work and Meaning4Life”

  1. Great Blog post Dani. Meaningful work is extremely important for me and I share your passion to inspire the next generation of leaders, and work with people to maximize their potential in all aspects of life.

  2. Agree that it is important that work connects to what matters to you & is aligned with your values, else it will most likely compromise what you believe in & negativity or resentment harvest leading to unhappiness & disengagement where morale is low etc… I suspect there are many people in the workforce that may feel that way. It’s sad if people don’t feel like they have a passion or drive to challenge themselves or explore what is or would be meaningful to them… Obviously there are situations or circumstances that do contribute unfortunately.
    I think if you are in a role motivated by your purpose on a personal & professional level it’s going to bring out energy, passion, expand creativity & give you the confidence to push your potential & challenge. Thus get the best out of yourself + those around you which also contribute to others success & happiness.
    I also love the idea of “thinking of your colleagues like neighbours”- what a great statement. True calling exercise is interesting… Would be good to take my journal to my “yearning” place – “the beach” & do a reflection exercise on that.
    Thanks for your thought provoking Blog Dani

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