We should pursue meaning more than happiness

COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - December 20, 2015 - 9:00am

The Christmas season brings many reasons to find meaning and hope in life and business. You yearn to have meaningful days with your family, and you desire to give back something to society, hoping that the tradition will carry on through future generations.  But to accomplish this yearning, you have to be fully charged, so you can do away with all limitations, inconsistencies and inadequacies, self-imposed or otherwise. You have to be constantly recharged, just like the cool electronic gadgets on which you now depend.

Research conducted by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University indicates that, on average, “Peak performers require at least eight hours of rest, including sleep, and that is true of both athletes and performing artists. With rare exceptions, they must also commit at least 10,000 hours of highly disciplined practice under strict and expert supervision.”

In the book Are You Fully Charged? The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life, Tom Rath identifies three “keys” that can help you to re-energize your attitude and efforts: doing something that will benefit others, creating more positive rather than negative moments for others as well as yourself, and making choices that can help improve your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.

Are You Fully Charged?, just like Rath’s other bestselling works — How Full is Your Bucket, Eat Move Sleep and Strengths Finder 2.0 —  is  a well-researched study on the role of human behavior in business and life. It uses thorough insight mining to provide well-written direction on how to energize your life without feeling like you have to recreate it. Rath familiarizes you on what he calls “the science of daily experience”a sampling method where participants make notes of their experiences throughout the day. The research activity helps participants realize that much of what they think will lead to happiness simply does not.

There are three important insights in Rath’s tome, and they are meant to drive better days for you and others.

1. Do a good deed for another person, which can provide meaning. Make a difference more than chase happiness. Making a difference does not mean you have to save hundreds of lives. Smaller wins also make a difference, and you are encouraged to give it a try. Creating a positive action for one of your customers, spending time listening to one of your children or taking an older loved one out for a day of relaxation are small wins, and they mean a lot to the recipients.

Making your work a purpose, not just a place, is a source of life significance.  For sure you have met people who say their work is their mission, passion or vision, whose work is more than a paycheck or an everyday place. They are like doctors without borders who travel to countries with outbreaks of dangerous diseases, or selfless missionaries who visit dangerous and unfriendly places to spread their beliefs. They have deep conviction in the purpose of their work and are able to deliver it with efficiency and effectiveness.

Rath defines meaningful work as doing something that benefits another person, including small acts that have positive value for society. In this context, he underscores that meaningful work is more of a basic necessity than a luxury for those who can afford it. “Meaningful work is also a lot more practical than I ever thought before I did a deeper dive on this topic. I had always assumed things like meaning, mission, and purpose were higher-level needs, but the more I learn, the clearer it becomes that meaningful work is a basic human need that cuts across professions and income levels,” Rath proclaims.

Match your interests and skills to the specific needs of the identified community you serve.  Harness your personal and professional strengths and use them for maximum impact. If you are a visual artist, offer your services to a non-profit. If you have strong organizational and networking skills, proffer your talents to advocacy groups that need someone with such talents. “Look for ways that your unique talents, background, expertise, dreams, and desires can serve some of local and global needs,” Rath declares.

2. Create more positive than negative moments through your interactions with others. Tell yourself that you must make every action count, use constructive intent, start small and be clear, put relationships and experiences first, and “win while others succeed.”

Make a combination of solitude and a little time with your closest friends more appealing. Undoubtedly, positive interactions resonate better with people. Rath’s research reveals that you need about 80 percent of your interactions with other people to be more positive than negative. The rationale for this is basic: negative interactions carry much heavier load and outweigh positive ones.

Learn to leverage your more analytical and inquisitive personality to create better interactions. It might be easier for you to ask a good question than it is to initiate a story or other banter. As such, consider asking a lot of questions, listen well, stow away your electronic devices, and learn as much as you can during each interaction.

3. Build energy by making choices that will improve your mental and physical health. In discussing this, Rath goes beyond the narrow lens of what you eat and your exercise routine or gym habits. Instead, he pushes you to get a vaccine for the common cold” and “avoid light, heat and noise” — basic actions that are often bypassed. Exercise can be fundamental in Rath’s view. He calls attention to the issue of what he labels the “sitting disease.” Refrain from sitting too much, sleep longer to achieve more, de-stress and create positive change.

Rath’s research suggests that the greatest issue for most adults is generating energy in their life. An astounding statistic in his report says that only 11 percent of the people surveyed said they had “a great deal of energy.” It’s pretty staggering to realize that the other 89 percent of the people you meet are operating below their capacity. Those are the people you work and live with; individuals who protect you, make big decisions and teach your kids.

You can dramatically improve your odds of living a long and healthy life by making better choices. Focus, for example, on the physical aspects. If you get a good night’s sleep tonight, it gives you a clean slate for tomorrow, when you are more likely to be active throughout the day and make better food choices. Perhaps most importantly, this starts an upward spiral, where you feel progressively better as each day goes by.

The three inputs — meaning, interactions and energy — can lead to happiness. You don’t have to go on a retreat in the mountains to find meaning, you don’t need to find new friends at the beach or at the gym to have better interactions, and you certainly don’t need to run a marathon or embark on a fad diet to create physical energy. “Abandon the pursuit of happiness,” Rath recommends.  Perhaps what matters a whole lot more than happiness is meaning. And meaning, Rath claims, just might be a lot easier to find. By exchanging extrinsic motivation for intrinsic, you can create your own meaning. It is not something that happens to you, but something you can make yourself.

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Email bongosorio@yahoo.com or bong_osorio@abs-cbn.com for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

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