“Companies, other consultants, they’re often trying to figure out what’s useful or convenient for people,” says Rasmussen. “I’m not interested in what’s useful or convenient. I’m interested in what’s meaningful.” Robert Rasmussen, Lego on Red Associates.
Meaning and value in work
Any kind of work can be made meaningful, through the attitude we freely choose when applying ourselves. Work becomes meaningful when people do it for the sake of things greater than themselves, such as doing it for other people, the community, or a cause.
Such a sense of purpose in life is associated with determination, enthusiasm, excitement of living, and clear life goals (Schulenberg et al., 2011, p.861)[i]. Career counselling even warns against the existential vacuum created when work loses such meaning and is replaced thereafter by a sense of void, alienation, and with it, a lack of investment and lethargy (Schultze and Miller, 2004, p. 142)[ii], a term we expand on throughout our work in Logotherapy.
Logotherapy and its message of finding meaning in life has shown that creating a sense of meaning in work is key to retaining and gaining the commitment of employees (Morrison et al., 2007, p. 98)[iii]. As Zacharia Gurtruida Van Jaarsveld says in her excellent dissertation Finding Meaning in the Workplace ” with the integration of their lives inside and outside of work, their lives in general become more meaningful. The more meaningful life becomes, the more they will give fully of themselves in the workplace. This leads to commitment, motivation and higher productivity.” The following research objectives came into focus:
· to shift the experience of a lack of meaning in work towards experiencing meaning in work through the use of the Socratic dialogue, the principal method of Logotherapy;
· to enrich the experience of meaning in work for those research participants of the study who already experience some sense of meaning in their work;
· to gain a deeper insight into the diversity of experiencing meaning in life in general and in the workplace in particular.
Knowing how to find meaning and therefore experiencing meaning in your work, also serves as a necessary corrective for those who think if only they had another job they would be happier or are entirely devoted to earning money in their work, money being the means for living that they forget living itself and forget seeing life as the end, not money as the end (Frankl, 1969, p.122)[iv].
As Frankl explains, through a patient who once said to him, that she thought “her life meaningless and therefore did not want to get well; but that everything would be different and fine if only she had a job that fulfilled her – if, for example she were a Doctor or nurse or a chemist or were engaged in some kind of scientific research. It was necessary to show this patient that the job at which one works is not what counts, but rather the manner in which one does the work. It does not lie with the occupation but always with us, whether those elements of the personal and the specific which constitute the uniqueness of our existence are expressed in the work and make life meaningful” (Frankl, 1969, p. 120)[v].
 In The Will To Meaning Frankl says “Today people are spared tension. First of all this lack of tension is due to that loss of meaning which I describe as the existential vacuum, or the frustration of the will to meaning.
[i] Schulenberg, S. E., Schnetzer, L. W. and Buchanan, E. M. (2011) The Purpose in Life Test-Short
Form: Development and Psychometric Support, Journal of Happiness Studies, 12 861–876.
[ii] Schultze, G. and Miller, C. (2004) The Search for Meaning and Career Development, Career
Development International, 9 (2), pp. 142-152.
[iii] Morrison, E. E., Burke III, G. C. and Greene, L. (2007) Meaning in Motivation: Does Your
Organization Need an Inner Life?, Journal of Health & Human Services Administration, 30
(1), pp. 98-115.
[iv] Frankl, Viktor. The Doctor and The Soul. London, Souvenir Press Ltd, 1969.
[v] Frankl, Viktor. The Doctor and The Soul. London, Souvenir Press Ltd, 1969.