A deep sense of meaning is a basic human need. People spend 57% of their time at work and if they don’t have meaning in their work they are more stressed, anxious, gain weight and get sick more frequently. Lack of meaning can also lead to an early death. Studies prove that meaning at work leads to a 50% drop in Alzheimer’s disease and a 30% decrease in heart disease.
Meaning is a basic human need and addictions to drugs, alcohol and even TV are more prevalent in people that don’t have meaning, according to several studies. Those who have found deep meaning in their work may even be considered a workaholic but they are healthier than those who go running out the door at the end of the day.
So what is meaning? It is the way we interpret our experiences and engage with our existence. Many things can be called meaningful but we all have a set of beliefs or practices that tap our emotions and engage our focus. That kind of personal, core meaning is visceral. It is so deeply ingrained that it can alter our immune systems.
Research on happiness by Dr. Steve Cole professor of medicine and psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA School of Medicine found there are two kinds of happiness: eudonic which is a deep sense of meaning, and hudonic which is short term consisting of self-gratification. People with eudonic meaning have a higher level of antibodies with immune systems that are better able to combat viruses. With hudonic meaning, immune systems exhibit ailments involving inflammation such as heart disease and cancer. Pleasure seeker immune systems look like those of people experiencing chronic adversity, such as extreme poverty or abuse. The research shows that meaning is not just an abstract idea, it actually makes us healthier.
In his book “Meaning at Work – and Its Hidden Language,” Danny Gutknecht, CEO and co-founder of Pathways, an advisory firm that helps organizations tap their potential through its people strategies, writes that today’s employees are in search of an authentic connection. “Meaning At Work” is the first book to lay out a strategy that enables everyone to participate in organizational meaning-making and recognize what they find meaningful at work.
The book helps readers to understand what meaning is, how it works and what can be done to engage it. CEOs are encouraged to facilitate this by creating an environment where together employees and managers are encouraged to explore the relationship between their meaning model and that of the organization.
An author and national speaker, Danny Gutknecht works with individuals and businesses all over the world. He is well spoken and knowledgeable.