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Meaning, According to David Brooks

businessman-336621_640By:  Mark Guterman

David Brooks, the syndicated columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote “The Problem With Meaning” where he said that meaning, as used today is “flabby and vacuous, the product of a culture that has grown inarticulate about inner life” and that “meaningfulness tries to replace moral systems with the emotional corona that surrounds acts of charity.” I understand his conclusions, but I think he is missing something important.

I would agree that “meaningfulness” has become a cliché and that it’s much easier to talk about than act toward.  However, for people who are serious (and to Brooks’ point, maybe not all who talk meaning are serious about it), I’ve seen profound changes in   attitude, decision making, direction, and overall satisfaction with their lives and work.  And because the path toward meaning can be a long and arduous journey requiring stamina, discipline, focus, and courage, there is nothing “flabby and vacuous” about it.

Finding meaning, first of all, requires a deep dive into what is most important to us.  This can be challenging in itself, but if that’s as far as we go, then Brooks has it right.  It is the commitment to live and work according to those values, day in and day out, through the highs and lows, where the idea of meaning becomes real and bears fruit.  The introspective part, the talking about meaning is only the first step; without on-going and long-term commitment to the practice, it may feel good, but it remains ”inarticulate.”

I believe that striving for meaning is a natural evolution in our work lives, as increasing numbers of people dig deep for satisfaction, alignment, and purpose.  This effort requires clarifying what is most important to us, a high degree of discipline to build those values into our work and lives, a willingness to be vulnerable, the capacity to take full responsibility for our behavior and efforts, and most of all, the strength to walk a path of our own choosing.  I see nothing at all flabby or vacuous about that.

If you’d like to learn more about meaning and work, please consider attending one of our upcoming teleclasses (“Focusing Your Intention” on February 18th or “Celebrating Your Purpose” on March 16th).  You can register or find more information on our web-site, http://www.meaningfulcareers.com/events/,or by contacting Mark at Mark@meaningfucareers.com.

MeaningfulCareers.com was created by Mark Guterman and Dan King, two guys with a shared commitment to the power of meaningful work.  They help professionals find greater meaning in their careers, lead happier, more satisfying lives, and instill lasting value through their work.  For more information and resources visit:  http://meaningfulcareers.com

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