I received a welcome surprise in a coaching conversation with a client this week. It was the fourth of a four-session series to help him rediscover his mojo (technical term!) after a particularly challenging personal situation that had also affected his performance at work.
I asked him three questions to help us both gain closure and end the engagement on a positive note. The questions are:
1) What have you learned about yourself through this process?
2) What is still unresolved?
3) What is important to you now moving forward?
In answering, my client (let’s call him John) made a beautiful link between finding purpose and experiencing gratitude.
“Before, I was in a directionless state. I didn’t feel like doing much. I didn’t have purpose or clarity on why I do what I do. But by finding purpose and recalibrating my goals, I can focus on what’s important to me. I can better appreciate what I’ve got. I can be more grateful. And whilst I’m still not 100%, I’ve come out the other side.”
John is a living case study of how searching for a sense of meaning, purpose and significance is a powerful motivational force that has been linked through to a host of positive psychological markers, including the presence of gratitude.
Dr Paul Wong is a clinical psychologist, professor, Founder of the International Network on Personal Meaning and Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychopathology. Dr Wong has been important in evolving the concept of positivity psychology to what he calls “Positive Psychology 2.0”.
This concept helps us integrate existential questions like; Why we exist? What is our purpose on this Earth? and How can we overcome our fear of death? Dr Wong recognises that we have both positive and negative forces at play within our psyche – and a deep connection to meaning and purpose helps us cope with these anxieties and survive through what can seem impossible situations.
Dr Wong builds on the seminal work of Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl famously emphasises that we do not have a choice in what life throws our way, but we do have a choice in how we respond and make meaning of life’s challenges.
Dr Wong’s work has elevated the positive psychology movement beyond the pursuit of the ‘happy life’ to the pursuit of the ‘meaningful life’. “A meaningful life is a happy and fulfilling life, even when the process of searching for meaning may be unpleasant and costly.” (Wong, 2012, p. 11).
The new connection that my client helped me make in our session this week, was that making meaning of our lives and connecting with our purpose also helps us feel gratitude for what we have.
For me – helping people learn from their experiences and find their performance edge is significantly meaningful to me. And this makes me massively grateful to you, my clients, friends, associates, readers – who make it possible for me to do this work.
Thank you. Really…..thank you.
And Merry Christmas.
Source: Wong, P.T.P. Eds. (2012). “The Human Quest for Meaning; Theories, Research & Applications”. Routledge, New York.