The Future Project (DW#990)

While the world is experiencing a crisis of disengagement, meaninglessness and lack of purpose, there are small pockets of hope and action emerging.
Political scientists and economists are noticing an emerging trend where some youth are increasingly interested in "spiritual" rather than "material" concerns, and are prioritizing purpose, knowledge and community over money and consumer goods. It appears that while their parent’s generation may have spent much time accumulating material resources, pockets of this generation are not that motivated to add to their material resources.
Some not for profit institutions are working to encourage building connections, celebrating purpose and providing spaces for storytelling.

One such example is the Future Project, an organization with a mission supported by the pillar of purpose. The project aims to help students pursue their purpose by placing guidance counselors, called Dream Directors, [great name, right?] at...

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Finding purpose in nonpaid work (DW#989)

It is no newsflash that our society values paid labour over the millions of hours spent by people all over the world doing work at home and raising families. Work such as this often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you can find meaning, purpose and joy at the tasks of housekeeping, caregiving and parenting regardless of how others view your contribution.
Once again, the secret to finding meaning and purpose in all our daily activities is to connect how what we are doing is contributing to the lives of others.
Spending time raising your families? The contribution to them is of course obvious. And we (sometimes) get to see it in their success and happiness.
However, it goes far far beyond them.
Raising good humans is a contribution that we make to their spouses, to their bosses, the community they will live in and to the world at large.
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Connecting your work to your purpose (DW#988)

How do you spend your days?
For people who work outside the home, the bulk of the time is spent at their place of business or employment.
If you are in a service profession, it can be easy to connect how what you do helps others. A survey involving 2 million participants found that those who considered their jobs to be meaningful were involved in careers such as English teachers, radiation therapists, school administrators, veterinarians and other roles that involved serving others.
Those of us who are involved in professions where the connection to helping others is not so obvious, need not despair of finding our purpose. Creating a life of meaning and purpose is a personal journey and you can connect the dots for yourself.
Are you involved in manufacturing kitchen equipment? Doing road works? The financial industry? A car dealership?
Changing your focus and connecting to the final user and becoming mindful of how you are contributing to...
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The pillar of purpose (DW#987)

The second pillar [The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith] in creating a life of meaning is the pillar of purpose.
So what is purpose and how do we discover it?
Very simply, purpose is found through self-reflection and helping others.
And discovering or forging your purpose does not have to be an intense search either. We can find meaning and purpose in our everyday lives by getting clear of what our strengths are and finding and creating opportunities to use these strengths to helps others and make this world a better place.
In other words, living life with purpose involves contribution to the greater good of society. It means that we need to get outside the "cocoon of self-absorption" and think of how we can, even in small ways, make the lives of others better in some way.
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The individual and the group (DW#986)

Let us get back to our conversation about increasing wellbeing in our lives by following Martin Seligman’s PERMA model.

We were talking about the M in PERMA which stands for Meaning and we said that Emily Esfahani Smith developed a model of Meaning which focuses on the four pillars of meaning, the first of which is the pillar of belonging.

While a sense of belonging adds joy and meaning to our lives, it is sometimes less than easy to fulfill this need in a society which has become increasingly individualistic and distracted.

Research in various locations across the globe suggests that social isolation and individualism are both on the rise. Increasingly, people tend to spend less time with their loved ones and more time in front of their phones and computer screens – even if they appear to be occupying the same space.
As people have become more intimate with their devices, there is less face-to-face interaction, and with that, a decreasing ability to listen,...
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The pillar of belonging (DW#985)

The first pillar is of a meaningful life according to Emily Esfahani Smith is belonging.
Psychologists explain that humans have a fundamental motivation to be accepted into relationships with others and to be a part of social groups. The fact that belongingness is a need means that human beings must establish and maintain a minimum quantity of enduring relationships in order to survive.
The need to belong, explain experts, is the need to give and receive attention to and from others. Belonging is more than simply being acquainted with other people. It is centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group as well as providing the same attention to other members. Smith says that the need for belonging is satisfied and adds meaning to your life where you are valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well.
And a lack of a sense of belonging, can have significant impact on human...
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The pillars of meaning (DW#984)

To answer the question, "How can we each live more meaningfully?" Smith spent five years interviewing hundreds of people and reading through thousands of pages of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.
Through her research Smith found four categories constantly re-emerging whenever people described what made their lives meaningful. Philosophers and social scientists from Aristotle to Baumeister, have also argued that meaning arises from
  1. Belonging to a group or community
  2. Having a purpose related to contributing to something larger
  3. Making sense of the world and your experiences and connecting with something greater than yourself and
  4. Building meaning through your own personal narrative and reflections. In other words, storytelling
 Smith calls these categories "the four pillars of a meaningful life".
For our purposes, we can create and add meaning to our lives by building some or all of these pillars in our lives and so let us spend the next few days...
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The crisis of meaninglessness (DW#983)

By now, many of us are aware about the rise in mental distress leading to rising rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
In 2018 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released startling new statistics on the rise of deaths by suicide in the U.S., up 25 percent since 1999 across most ethnic and age groups.
Numbers such as these clearly point to a crisis of mental distress in the West and we need to understand the reasons behind it if we are to turn the tide.
[Although I have not been able to find validated studies on the impact on particular populations such as Muslims, it appears that many believe that faith groups are also reflected in these rising numbers. In other words, belonging to a faith community is not automatically protect people from mental health distress]
Many mental health experts argue that this is a crisis of mental health care, that people are not getting the services they need and that some populations in particular, are...
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The power of meaning (DW#982)

In her book "The Power of Meaning," Emily Esfahani Smith rounds up the latest research -- and the stories of fascinating people she interviewed -- to argue that the search for meaning is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness. It is not surprising that this book is so aligned with what we have been discussing as Smith studied positive psychology and is greatly inspired by the work of Martin Seligman.

Seligman says that meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you. Smith builds upon this foundation and explains that while modern culture appears to be obsessed with pleasure and happiness, it is in seeking meaning and purpose that people discover more fulfillment and deep wellbeing. People who have meaning in life, her research has discovered, are more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer.

The power of having meaning and purpose in your life, Smith explains,...
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M is for Meaning (DW#981)

We have been exploring Martin Seligman’s model of happiness and wellbeing based on PERMA which postulates that a good life isn’t just about maintaining a positive emotional state. A good life is about moving toward your highest potential - flourishing — and that doesn’t always feel like sunshine and rainbows.
Today we will start talking about the M in PERMA which stands for meaning
Positive psychology explains that we need to have a connection to a deep sense of purpose in our lives.
Positive psychology experts explain that "We’re not sure exactly where meaning comes from, if it is inherent, or if it is ‘real’ at all; what we do know is that humans flourish when they have it and suffer when they don’t."
Victor Frankl, the 20th century Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist who survived the concentration camps, developed his approach to meaning and his therapy for treating the lack of...
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