Imagine you could have a map which like all other maps, helps you chart your course in a place of meaning. Well there is, and I’ve been working with the Map of Meaning for the last 6 years as one of the foundational tools of the Do What Matters approach, with transformative results. I’ve used it one-to-one with coaching clients who are looking to make a change in their life and work, as well as with organisations.
There’s many reasons I love working with this tool, here’s just a few:
Meaning is not a destination but a ‘state’
Just like any other map, you first need to set yourself the intention of going to a place, like say France or Spain and when you get there, you use the map to find your way around the place. The Map of Meaning works in a similar way, first you set the intention to get to a more meaningful state of living or working, then you use the map to navigate your way around it. So interestingly, and this is obvious once it’s revealed to us, meaning is not a finite thing that is out there to be discovered. Meaning is a state or an experience. We experience meaning when we find balance between the following elements: 4 pathways to be fulfilled, tensions to be navigated between being and doing, self and others, and inspiration and the reality of self and circumstances. Perhaps an easier way to understand this is to think about when we experience a lack of meaning. One of my clients loved his job on paper, and couldn’t understand why he was experiencing a creeping sense of disillusionment. Working with the map he realized that by investing so much of himself at work, he’d stopped paying attention to some of the other elements in his life through which he experiences a sense of meaning.
This approach enables us to feel more whole as a person because through it we can find the expression of our deepest humanity. My clients are often surprised that they can create their own map of meaning in less than an hour! Again, this is no accident because it has been developed by two amazing women, Lani Morris and Dr Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, who didn’t think this up from an intellectual start point or from their ‘head’ space, but developed this through empirical research with human beings from all walks of life. So it is not a theory of what 2 people think holds meaning for us, it is the cumulative result of having asked hundreds of people around the world what holds meaning for them. Also, the Map of meaning in the workplace creates a real possibility for us to build more wholeness at work, read more here.
A kick up the proverbial
How often have we blamed our companies, bosses, financial commitments, lack of skills or education or whatever for the lack of meaning in our lives? The Map of Meaning first helps us understand why we are experiencing a lack of meaning and secondly gives us clarity about how to create more meaning for ourselves. It effectively takes us from feeling a victim of our circumstances to taking ownership of creating more meaning for ourselves. Lani tells the story of “one woman, faced with redundancy, who used the Map of Meaning to rethink her job, recreate the organisational demand for her services and in the process enriched her sense of belonging and community with others in her organisation. Because she was shy, it took courage to do all this. She felt a changed woman, and others also saw her in a new light”.
Expressing the inexpressible
Often we find it difficult or near-on impossible to talk about what we care about most deeply even with those closest to us, never mind within a professional context! Working with the Map of Meaning opens the space and language for people to share and explore stuff like our deepest values and what we care most about, even at work. I worked with a team in a global corporation who were split between four countries. Within a couple of hours they had found human connections that they never experienced before in years of working together. One woman said “It’s amazing how common are values really are”, and another one said “in the whole of my 40 year career, I have never told anyone about my work in the church and how much it means to me”.
And finally, and possibly the best of all
Everyone just gets it
I have found that this tool is universally accessible. You don’t need a PHD to understand it. Often the best ideas are deceptively simple! Join Lani and I for a masterclass on the 5th and 6th July to discover your own map of meaning and how to use it to create a more meaningful workplace.