Tag: attitude

Finding Meaning and Purpose

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about finding meaning and purpose in our work and how that contributes to our overall happiness and sense of well-being.

Over 60 years ago, the famous Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning,” cited by the Library of Congress as one of the 10 most significant books ever written. In his book, Frankl wrote that happiness cannot be pursued; it ensues as a result of living a life with meaning and purpose. The more directly you pursue happiness, the less likely you are to achieve it. Although pursuing happiness may result in momentary pleasure, it doesn’t lead to an authentic, soul-satisfying happiness that can come from living a life with meaning and purpose.

Frankl taught that people can discover meaning and purpose in three ways: by doing work that matters, by loving others unconditionally and by finding meaning in their suffering. When I read this, I understood the first two, but understanding the third took some time and thinking. In Frankl’s case, he was interned by the Nazis in 1942 and lived in concentration camps for three years. In reading about his captivity, I realized that he survived this horrible ordeal by believing that his life had a purpose and that all of his suffering was not in vain. His survival had everything to do with how he responded to his circumstances. If we suffer and think it’s because our luck has run out, we didn’t get a fair break or someone else has done us wrong, we feel nothing but despair. But if we choose to find meaning in our suffering, we can change our attitude about our difficult circumstances.

Many of us have heard the phrase, “Attitude is everything.” I think in this context, much of what Frankl wrote about illustrates the phrase. Each of us experiences loss and suffering in our lives, and there are many ways we can deal with it. For example, a few years ago, when my business was suffering because of the economic downturn, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to continue. However, instead of allowing myself to worry, I decided to use my time to study new coaching techniques and take some training courses. When business is good and I’m busy, I don’t have time to take the training that keeps my skills sharp. When I look back now, I realize how smart it was for me to use my time in this way. Instead of allowing depression to creep in and waste my time, I chose to use the time to my advantage. I still worried but not to the extent I would have if I hadn’t chosen to fill my time productively.

What helped me most during this time was the realization that I was able to do some good in the world. I wanted to keep coaching because I could see the value it brings to others. That deeper meaning gives me a sense of purpose. That sense of purpose helps me navigate through the obstacles that always come up when you run your own business and gives me a strong sense of determination to keep going.

This week, ask yourself if the work you do is meaningful? You don’t have to be on a mission to save the world. Each of us does small things every day that contribute to the well-being of others. The trick is to find the meaning in what you do, whatever it is. For example, there’s a dog-walking service down the street from my house and a small park about ½ block in the other direction. Each morning, a woman walks all kinds of dogs past my house down to the park for a run. She always smiles and waves at me when she walks by. One day, I was out on the sidewalk and I asked if I could pet the dog she had on leash. I remarked that I thought she was lucky to have a job working with dogs all day. She told me that she loved it. Although some dogs were pretty challenging, most of them loved going for their daily walks. She said it made her happy to be doing something that brought joy to the dogs. And she was glad to help out their owners, who because of work and other obligations didn’t have time to walk their dogs every day.

I realized that this woman probably doesn’t make much money. But her authentic happiness is easy to see. She loves what she does and finds meaning and purpose in it.

Discover what you do in a day that benefits others. Maybe you work in a financial function for a company and make sure that people get paid every two weeks. Or perhaps you work in a restaurant and enjoy bringing good food to your customers. How about writing computer code that enables others to access better information or redesigning the way something works so it’s easier for others to use? Maybe, like me, you work with people as a coach or a consultant and try to help them maximize their strengths or find better ways to accomplish things.

Stay-at-home parents who spend their days caring for their children, garbage collectors, bank tellers —the work these people do adds value to the lives of others. How we relate to the roles we play in our jobs is up to us. Our attitude toward what we do and our ability to find the meaning and purpose in it determines our happiness.

As Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

8/15/11 “Epitaphs”

Good day, team.

Your challenge this week is about how you would like to be remembered. First, I offer some context.

On vacation last week, my husband and I took a road trip to Idaho. We visited friends in beautiful Sandpoint on Lake Pend Orielle and then traveled to the little towns of Grangeville and Nez Perce to discover what we could about my husband’s extended family. Surrounded by miles of wheat and corn fields, these towns have hardly changed since my husband’s relatives grew up there. These small and quiet towns are home to middle class farmers and stay-at-home moms who still put up pickles and jams and hang their clothes on the line outside. The most important events of the year are high school football games, the harvest and the Nez Perce Indian celebrations.

The Sunday we arrived in Grangeville, the entire town was in the park. Kids played in the community swimming pool, and adults sat in aluminum lawn chairs under shade trees, drinking lemonade and chatting about this year’s strange weather, the price of wheat, and which piece of machinery broke down last week.

We sought out the town cemetery to look for the gravesites of David’s ancestors — the Overmans, Watsons, Sinclairs, and Whites. The prairie hill cemetery sits on a small rise with a gorgeous 360-degree view. The hot, dry breeze made wave-like patterns over the fields of high grass, and swirling clouds of dust surrounded the few harvesters out in the fields working to get a few more rows done. I realized that this view and this place had remained the same for many generations. It was comforting to feel its stability.

As we walked the rows of the cemetery, I read one headstone after another and pieced together a small picture of the lives of those who had lived here over the years:

Sarah, 1888–1902 — Darlin’ daughter of Ed and Wilma, whom the angels took too soon
Edward, 1904–1918 — Our brave and hearty son and brother
Leslie, 1872–1918 — True to every trust
William, 1872–1945 — Only game fish swim up stream
James, 1922–1945 — A valiant solder who died for us
Percy, 1891–1954 — Loving family man and famous fisherman
Clarisse, 1934–1935 — How brief and sweet was your time on earth
Forrest, 1902–1917 — His burden is lifted up to God
Cyrus, 1845–1901 — Here lies a loving man who served all with a smile
Myrtle, 1918–1982 — Sweet flower of the field
Florence Pauline, 1882–1899 — Thy memory shall ever be a guiding star to heaven

Who were these people? I wondered. Are their epitaphs a good description of who they were?

We stopped for lunch at the Hilltop Cafe, aptly named as it sat on the only hill in town. It was the typical cafe of the 1960s, with checked, plastic table cloths; dusty plastic flower arrangements; a bulletin board in the front entrance announcing local activities and services; bar stools covered in red naugahyde; and a large sign over the cook’s station that read, “If you don’t like it, don’t order it.”

The place was full of locals and a few bikers traveling through. “Sit anywhere!” a woman shouted as we walked into the restaurant. We took a couple seats at the counter, and it soon became clear that the place was run by that woman. Her name was Hilda.

“Order up!” she barked at the cook who was no more than 10 feet from her across a counter. “Where’s that tuna sandwich?” The cook’s downcast eyes reflected a combination of servitude and resentment.

“Fifteen years I’ve been runnin’ this place, and I still can’t get any decent help!” she said to a customer. Her servers and dishwasher just shook their heads and went about their business.

At another table, Hilda drilled an undecided customer. “You want curlys or French fries? I don’t have all day, so make up your mind.”

As I watched the scene unfold, I wondered what Hilda’s epitaph would read. “Here lies Hilda, the crabbiest cafe owner who ever lived” or “Hilda of the Hilltop — they ordered ’em up and she ordered ’em around.” Whatever it would turn out to be, I imagined Hilda’s dominating spirit would come into play.

This week, think about your own epitaph. What attitudes and behaviors do you show each day that people might use to describe you? Do you think people would say that you were brave, sweet, loving or loyal? Would they say you had a mind of your own or that you were nobody’s fool? Would you have a funny epitaph like one of these – “I would rather be here than in Texas” or “Here lies the father of 29. He would have had more, but he didn’t have the time.” My all time favorite came from a headstone in Tombstone, Arizona: “Be who you is, cuz if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.”

Think about what others might write about you after you’re gone. How will they remember you? If you had to write your own epitaph, what would you say about yourself? And would it be different than what others would write? Most important, what attitudes and behaviors do you exhibit everyday that describe you?

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.