The style of life decides. ~ Alfred Adler
By: Luis A. Marrero, M.A., RODP, LLP
July 7, 2016
As of today, there are 435,000,000 Google entries for the word “engagement”. Yes, you read right: 435 “million.” We could safely assume that with so many entries the global engagement problem would have been solved by now. Well, if we did assume what appears to be a logical conclusion, we would all be wrong. Despite the vast amount of commentary and the availability of solutions, 70% of workers are not happy and enthusiastic about their jobs and thus remain disengaged.
That does not mean we lack viable and excellent examples of leaders and employees within great organizations and teams who are meaningfully committed to what they do. My point is that despite these few positive deviants, most organizations – public, private and NGO’s – struggle with engagement. Why is this so? And how does Logoteleology or Meaningful Purpose Psychology approach this concern?
What is Meaningful Purpose Psychology?
Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MPP) is the scientific study of the meanings that enable people and institutions to thrive and to succeed. Its scientific name is Logoteleology. “Logoteleology” is a construct of three Greek words:
- Logo (λόγος), which stands for reason, meaning or cause.
- Thelos, (θέλω), defined as will.
- Telos (τέλος, σκοπός), signifying end or purpose.
To learn more about MPP, please read my articles, What is Meaningful Purpose Psychology (Logoteleology)? Part 1, and Part 2. You can also refer to my book: The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology. It is also available in Kindle Edition.
Briefly stated, MPP studies how the meaning a person gives to her/himself, others and situations leads to a particular type of motivation, and to ensuing response or action. It is the meaning one gives to the self, for instance, what defines one’s identity, personal brand, self-definition and significance. The individual’s behavior and the quality of his or her life will be consistent with her or his self-definition or self-meaning. It is also proposed that an individual will treat another consistent with how she or he attributes, perceives, defines and values him or her. And again, it too is applicable to how a person perceives a situation or environment. As a rule, behaviors are the outcomes of meanings.
Applied to organizations, self- and other-definition giving or labeling answer sample questions such as “What is the meaning of our institution?” and “What meaning do we give to each stakeholder?” The answer would explain why, respectively, the company and its leadership act as they do; and why they value and treat stakeholders the way they do. Again, the organization’s behavior and its outcomes will be consistent with the existing and prevalent meaning – be it conscious or unconscious.
Meaningful or Meaningless?
Meanings can be meaningful or life enhancing; as well as meaningless or life depleting. The first improves and builds; while the latter drains, diminishes, and lessens. It is not difficult to determine when one feels pumped up or down in the dumps, for instance.
In MPP, recognizing when meanings are meaningful and when they are not is significant because meanings can intuitively tell us the potential consequence of the choices we make. If the action we are about to take builds and enhances a relationship, product, service and idea, it would be sensible to pursue that aim. On the other hand, if the consequence of the action we are about to take could or will lead to a meaningless end, it would be well advised to steer away from that option.
So, as you can see, MPP practitioners or Logoteleologists follow an empirically based as well as a very practical and uncomplicated approach to problem solving – be it in therapy, coaching, counseling, training and consulting. Now, while MPP is sensible and simple, it is not simplistic. It requires training to become a certified and licensed logoteleologist.
In review; if the outcomes are life-enhancing, they are the result of meaningful meanings and subsequent behaviors. On the other hand, if the consequences are depleting and draining, they are the outcomes of meaningless meanings and their corresponding behaviors. Either outcome is the consequence of how self, others, situations and ideas are meant, defined, and valued. And that brings us back to the two questions and concern of this article: Why does the disengagement problem persist? And how does Logoteleology or Meaningful Purpose Psychology approaches this concern?
Disengagement as Symptom of Human Depletion
The disengagement problem persists because employees are meant, defined, and valued through a meaningless lens by leaders and so-called organization design experts who follow flawed and discredited assumptions. [You can read more about the root cause of the assumptions behind such meaningless leadership approach in my articles related to Second Wave Organization Development (OD2.0); Managing as if Leading; and Leadership Déjà Vu]. Many employees have fallen victim to false concepts about the nature of – and their role at – work. [For a deeper explanation about taking responsibility for self-engagement, please read my article, Are You Actively Engaged at Work? Willing Your Own Professional Meaning.] To fix the disengagement problem we need to change our current perspective to what it means to be human, and what purpose life demands of us. Are we, as a species, meaningful or are we meaningless? Are some individuals or group of people more meaningful than others, or are we all equally meaningful? Are our institutions designed to serve humans or for humans to serve organizations?
Engagement as Symptom of Human Thriving
If you read the literature of what constitutes “engagement” – you will notice a theme that favors meaningful intent and practices by all concerned. So let me briefly present what engagement is and is not in Logoteleology theory and practice:
Engagement is not…
I offer that engagement is not an outcome that can be pursued. Rather, I propose that engagement ensues as the outcome of the positive and life-enhancing meanings we give to the self, to all other stakeholders; as well as to the meaning, nature and role of work and organizations in society. As pointed above, it starts with making a personal decision to align all behavior (what we do and how we do it) with meaningful intent (why we do what we do). It is simple. It is not complicated. And for those who would find my proposal challenging, consider giving it a positive and meaningful meaning so that it becomes an opportunity worth pursuing.
Again, being genuinely engaged is not the outcome of a program or initiative. Rather, it is a heartfelt and intrinsically willing decision (1) to live a positive, meaningful and prosperous life; and (2) to make sure others too experience a rich and worthwhile life.
Since the late 90’s, based on psychological empirical and peer-reviewed research, MPP theory and Logoteleology practitioners concluded that all humans – without exception – are inherently valuable, have potential for good, and are deserving of a meaningful, prosperous, and happy existence. Further, we encourage all economic, political, religious, psychological or philosophical persuasions to test MPP propositions; and where proven accurate and relevant, to adjust current beliefs to more sensible, practical and realistic approaches. Logoteleology or MPP is not a philosophical point of view. Rather, it is the conclusion of extensive review of psychological research, and extensive field application. However, we encourage more in-depth research of Logoteleological propositions. MPP is also a unique psychological method with broad application.
To learn more about MPP or Logoteleology and how it can help you, your team, and your organization, please contact me at Luis@bostonimp.com or leave a reply below. Reactions and discussions are welcomed.
For supportive research information please refer to my book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology.
©2016. Luis A. Marrero, M.A., RODP, LLP, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose.
About the Author
Luis A. Marrero, M.A., RODP, LLP, is the pioneer of Logoteleology or Meaningful Purpose Psychology, as well as Second Wave Organization Development (OD 2.0). A logoteleologist, author, speaker, coach and consultant with a global reach, Luis is CEO of The Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM); Editor of the INPM Newsletter; co-founder of the Work & Organization Division of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA); and IPPA’s Work & Organization Division Membership & Partnership Lead. Luis lives with his family in Westfield, Massachusetts.