E-Course: Leading a meaningful life –  Module 1

Leading a meaningful life

is what we all are striving for (Viktor Frankl, 1905-1997). Yet, we often experience periods of boredom and meaninglessness in our daily personal or professional lives. In this engaging and interactive e-course I will guide you through inspiring readings, reflective exercises and helpful personal assessments and evaluations.

Course Overview

The course learning outcomes are:

  • identification and understanding of personal values,
  • creation of your personal vision, and
  • establishing a step-by-step plan to implement your mission.

As a result, you will be able to live your life in a more meaningful way and enjoy greater personal satisfaction, happiness and success.

The course (currently) is structured in six modules aiming at achieving the course learning outcomes: Modules 1 and 2 will introduce to the elements of a meaningful life and help identify your personal values. Modules 3 to 6 will focus on approaches to creating a personal vision and to implementing the resulting mission respectively.

Each Module will consist of several sections inviting you to engage interactively with the course material and with myself. While you will be prompted at certain points throughout the course to interact with me, please do not hesitate to contact me via email (thomas@valuesxplorer.com) at any time that you might have additional questions or to schedule a personal conversation. Once you have successfully completed the tasks at the end of a module, you will receive the link to the following module. After successful completion of Module 6 you will receive our Certificate of completion of this e-course.

In particular, Module 1 – Identify values – is structured as follows:

Module 1:

  • Course overview
  • Introduction
  • Case Study “Sam Someone”
  • Sources of Meaning Profile
  • Summary and interactive exercises

Introduction

It may be helpful to keep a notebook or journal while travelling on the journey of this e-course. Notes that you take while engaging with the material, jotting down thoughts that come to mind and emotions that emerge may be helpful in plotting your course from where you currently are to where you want to be in the future.

Most of us want our life to make sense to us and to be meaningful. We want our actions to matter and we strive for “good” relations with others and with the world around us. Many of us “walk” through life trying to do “their best” and suffer from realizing that we continuously falling short.

In the following video Viktor Frankl is captured addressing the lack of meaning (“existential vacuum”) that many experience and emphasizes the importance of recognizing the spark of the search for meaning; he also suggests how we can become what we are capable of being: http://www.ted.com/talks/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning

After watching this brief video, you may want to start reflecting on:

  • What am I striving for?
  • In what areas of my life do I experience a lack of meaning?
  • In what dimensions of my personal or professional contexts could I see potentials of development that I have not yet fully tapped into?

 In future paragraphs and sections this course will offer tools and approaches that help you refine your responses and gradually move forward.

The following video tells the story of Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy; it also explains how his approach can be applied in therapy, counseling, and coaching. In particular, this video effectively introduces three avenues as suggest by Frankl to discover meaning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asZcSJWCBPk

After watching this video, please reflect on the following:

  • According to Viktor Frankl, what are the three key “options” of discovering meaning?
  • How am I currently realizing these three options?
  • What works well for me and where do I see opportunities for personal development?

Again, doing your reflections in writing will help you develop your thoughts further and prepare you for the next steps of this e-course.

The following provides an additional perspective of Frankl’s threefold approach to discovering meaning. It is based on my earlier work as published in: Mengel, T. (2012). “LEADING WITH ‘EMOTIANAL’ INTELLIGENCE – EXISTENTIAL AND MOTIVATIONAL ANALYSIS IN LEADERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT.” i-manager’s Journal on Educational Psychology 5(4): 24-31

To overcome the experience of many of an ‘existential vacuum’ (lack of meaning) Viktor Frankl (1985) has presented three dimensions of discovering meaning and realizing values: creating something meaningful, experiencing something as meaningful, and reframing something in a meaningful context.

Viktor Frankl: “Man’s Search for Meaning” (1985)

Surprisingly, the importance of Frankl’s (1985) research on “Man’s search for meaning”, which lead beyond Freud’s and Adler’s emphasis on pleasure and power, has not yet been fully recognized. Combined with the results of other approaches, the human “Will to meaning”, the centerpiece of Frankl’s (1988) motivational theory, could help develop a more comprehensive theory of personal development and leadership. In analysis of the approach of Freud and Adler, Frankl (1985, 1988) has pointed out that focusing on the satisfaction of the will to pleasure or the will to power are the result of the frustration of man’s primary “will to meaning” and often lead to an “existential vacuum”. While power can be a means to the end of finding meaning, and pleasure and happiness may ensue the discovery of meaning, humans primarily search for individual meaning based on their personal situation.

Frankl suggested that we discover meaning

  • in what we do by realizing creative values (e.g., creating something at work or in our learning environment),
  • in what we experience by realizing experiential values (e.g., experiencing meaningful relationships in our personal and professional lives), and
  • in what we believe and think by realizing attitudinal values (e.g., developing new and healthy attitudes when suffering professional setbacks or personal crises).

Furthermore, he proposes that we discover meaning by answering the questions “why?” and “what for?” based on our personality and on the situational context we find ourselves in; hence, our personal situation needs to guide our discovery.  Frankl’s motivational theory provides an anthropological basis for the importance of values in (self) leadership processes and for the need to create meaningful work environments (Mengel, 2008).

References

Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, Pocket books.

Frankl, V. E. (1988). The will to meaning: foundations and applications of logotherapy (Expanded ed. ed.). New York, NY: Meridian, Penguin group.

Mengel, T. (2008). Motivation. In J. Gosling & A. Marturano (Eds.), Key Concepts in Leadership Studies (pp. 111 – 114). Routledge, UK: Milton Park, Oxfordshire.

Case Study

This case study may help you identify a process of how Frankl’s approach can be used in practice. The case demonstrates how the meaning-centered and values-oriented approach was applied in the context of self-leadership development. It originally appeared also in: Mengel, T. (2012). “LEADING WITH ‘EMOTIANAL’ INTELLIGENCE – EXISTENTIAL AND MOTIVATIONAL ANALYSIS IN LEADERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT.” i-manager’s Journal on Educational Psychology 5(4): 24-31.

Sam came into a self leadership seminar trying to better understand his current frustrations about life and leadership and to identify what to do about them. Sam is a 35 year old manager of a sales-team in major insurance company. He is married and has two children at the age of 5 and 7. He has a degree in social work and a teacher certificate. Because he could not find work in his trained profession he started selling insurances and worked his way up into his current position. While he is quite successful and earmarked by his superiors as a high potential, he does not feel to be ‘at the right spot’.

He appears to be very curious, service-, family-, and people-oriented in general; he also is striving for humanistic ideals and social justice. However, he also appears rather flexible in balancing his life around various values.

In particular, assessments indicated that Sam draws meaning mainly and above average from personal relationships, religious activities, altruism, social causes, humanistic concerns, meeting basic needs, and creative activities. Relationship with nature, traditions and culture, financial needs, hedonistic activities, and material possessions are of comparably little importance to him.

Activity:

  • Comparing Sam’s personal preferences with his assumed job requirements as insurance sales manager, what might be potential areas of tension and leadership challenges?
  • After completing your reflection continue reading the case study.