If you believe that the meaning of life has no practical business, work or financial application, you’ve got a lot of company. Yet there’s a huge body of evidence, even among top business and professional publications, that meaning and other “soft” stuff can be the catalyst for solving some of the most pressing worldly problems.
There are Many Ways Meaning Can Enhance All Your Bottom Lines
My book, Work with Meaning, Work with Joy: Bringing Your Spirit to Any Job, came out of months of workday hell on many levels: working in a high pressure corporate law firm during three downsizings, having to do a lot of overtime because my husband was out of work, three family members on the other side of the country were dying, and feeling my own entrepreneurial dreams go further away every day.
Fortunately, I had learned from earlier challenges the power of meaning, particularly from the works of Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. If he could find life-saving meaning in the midst of Auschwitz, surely I could find meaning at a safe workplace that I could leave when the workday was over.
Inspired by Frankl, I learned four key principles that can be applied to any tough situation:
- Tasks that are perceived as meaningful get done more exuberantly and effectively and therefore less expensively.
- Work that is perceived as meaningful is less stressful, which leads to less burnout, fewer sick days, less turnover, and higher productivity.
- The clearer our sense of meaning and purpose, the more resilient we can be in hard times. This can lead to higher productivity and ingenuity.
- Guided by our sense of meaning and purpose, we can more clearly see what’s essential to do and what is not. That saves a lot of time, money and energy.
Many People Benefit from Meaning in Work and Money Matters, But Few Are Willing to Talk About Its Power
For example, many business executives tout the benefits of running. After a run, they admit, they are much more efficient and relaxed, but few know or talk openly about the benefits of meditation, which could reconnect them with the source of ultimate meaning and wisdom.
One thing that makes meaning so powerful is that when we are connected to something truly meaningful, we are connected to something much bigger than ourselves, including God. Yet meaning also anchors us in what is most unique and true to ourselves.
My husband John instantly comes more alive when he experiences or shares his love of Satchmo, Native American history, Latin and Gregorian chant. I’m immediately more connected to meaning when I look at the clouds, sing old hymns, or listen to classical music. Both of us experience meaning with our cat, in church, in meditation, with friends or family, or in service.
If Lawyers Can Profit By Working with Meaning, Anyone Can
Things felt so un-spirited and painful in the mid-90’s at the job I described above that I reached out through the internet and friends for help. Judi Neal, now director of the Walton Center in Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas, connected me to Steven Keeva, then an editor for the Journal of the American Bar Association. Steve was working on what I still think is the greatest book on spirit and work, Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life. (This book, filled with practical applications of spiritual practices in legal practice, is being re-published within the year.)
Steve connected me to Kim Wright, who refused to be just another unhappy lawyer. Her research and networking led her to create Cutting Edge Law, where you can connect with many people and organizations who promote openly contemplative practices and spirituality in law.
Cutting Edge Law also has a You-Tube channel of videos with people who have been working to bring in more meaning to law, including my own interview on spirituality and work in law and all professions.
It’s been really exciting for me not just to have learned to find meaning in legal work — which led to my new work in helping bring more meaning and joy to all work. It’s also exciting to be a part of and to report this growing movement to bring more heart and soul to law. Here’s one of my favorite articles on the topics.
Where do you now find meaning in your work, finances and other challenges?
What practices help you connect more to what’s meaningful?
I dare you to share your thoughts with others and help increase the power of meaning in everyday life.
As always, many blessings,
Pat McHenry Sullivan