In Are You Fully Charged?, Tom Rath reveals the three keys that matter most for our daily health and well-being, as well as our engagement in our work.
Finding a higher purpose in life
Historically, finding meaning has beeen portrayed as a personal journey–something you discover through extensive searching or call on in times of need.
Finding a higher purpose in life is considered the ultimate existential and philosophical goal. The study of meaningfulness has been influenced by Viktor Frankl’s landmark 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, which chronicled his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. The book describes how finding something meaningful in the bleakest of human conditions allowed Frankl and others to survive.
Viktor Frankl developed a treatment that he called ‘logotherapy’
The basic principle of this approach is to help people find practical goals and steps that create ‘specific and individual meaning.’ In Frankl’s words, ‘Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.’
Frankl’s initial theory about how young people find meaning is now being tested through carefully designed experiments. The results revealed that teenagers who had the greatest brain response to meaningful actions had the greatest declines in depressive symptoms over time. Meaningful activity protects the brain from dark thoughts.
Meaningful work is driven by intrisic, rather than extrinsic, motivation
Extrinsic motivation is a nice way of describing when you do things primarily to receive a reward.
Intrinsic motivation–or deep internal motivation–is much richer. It stems from the meaningfulness of the work you do. You are driven by what you yearn to do even if there’s no reward or compensation.
Emerging research suggests that it is better to focus solely on intrinsic motivation, because deriving any motive whatsoever from external incentives could decrease performance.
It is easy to fall into the trap of allowing external incentives
‘Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also their financial success’, observed Wrzesniewski and her co-author Barry Schwartz.
This is especially important because it is easy to fall into the trap of allowing external incentives, such as monetary rewards at work, to detract from your ability to focus on meaningful efforts to serve others.
One challenge is that cultivating and developing intrinsic motivation often requires conscious effort.
The work you do each day is how you make a difference in the world
You probably spend the majority of your time doing something that is considered a job, occupation, calling. It is essential to make this time count. If you can find the right work, you can create meaning every day, instead of trying to squeeze the most important things in around the edges.
Create a positive charge!
The best use of an hour is to invest it in something that will continue to grow. When you add a positive charge to another’s person day, it carries forward into each of the subsequent interactions. Even when you don’t see the results directly, investing an hour in the growth of another person can increase the well-being of an entire network of people in the span of a day. It will also help you grow.