Meaning and Purpose
The Greeks have two words for happiness, hedonia and eudaimonia. Hedonic is free of pain. Eudaemonic represents virtue and purpose.
Pleasure and hedonism go hand in hand together. It is the root of a philosophy where human behavior is driven to increase pleasure and decrease pain. However, the Greeks understood that life was simply not about ease for that left a longing.
The word eudaemonic means having a purpose. It is making an impact and being virtuous. This purpose satiated a person’s desire for happiness.
Most of us dream of retirement. Sitting around with complete freedom. No structure to get in your way.
This is fun for a while and exactly what retirees experience. More common than not that within a year they die or go back to work. They lost their purpose, their reason for existence. So, they either go find a new one or they let go.
Salary helps but people don’t just work for pay. Work helps to push the mind into thinking, problem solving, engaging. But work is the easiest method for a human to make an impact on society. This represents their purpose.
Work isn’t the hedonistic happiness that the Greeks talked about. It is the eudaemonic where happiness is derived through purpose. Meaning the employee that has a purpose has found the basics of happiness.
Prescriptively manager’s look at each role under them. Superficially they understand each positions impact and meaning. Yet a leader must share and reinforce that meaning and purpose for people to feel greater happiness which leads to better performance.
People must know their impact; this means the manager must find it first. There are varying degrees of impact that each team member makes. For those that contribute on the lower end, you must figure out how to raise their impact and purpose to the organization.
There is one slight issue with this. What happens when you have a role that makes no impact and has little meaning? Anthropologist David Graeber in 2018 studied this topic specifically. He captured it in his book Bullshit Jobs.
He estimated that half of societal work is pointless. This then becomes psychologically destructive when paired with a work ethics that associates work with self-worth. Forcing people to pretend that what they do is more important than what it really is.
The negative impacts of not having a purpose start out hidden but fester within the human psyche. Once a person realizes that if they were to leave work and no one would notice that their self-worth is devastated. This leads to depression and the same hallow feeling that drive many to suicide.
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