Posts Tagged meaning
A paper recently published in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance explains an approach to narrative-based careers counselling originating from a systems theory framework through ‘three levels of story crafting questions’.
A couple of weeks ago I ran a workshop for wonderful bunch of university careers advisers in Dublin. I’m still not sure that we settled on a title for the workshop but the basic idea was to apply new and interesting models and theories to give a fresh perspective on careers guidance practice.
I think the original invitation was something like: ‘Can you run a workshop based on your blog?’ I offered them a menu of possible topics…and they said yes to most of them. So I ended up stitching together a patchwork of themes such as employability, career identity, dealing with uncertainty, motivations and techniques for reflective practice.
Quite a bit of what I included was stuff I’m still working through and finding a place for, so we had fun experimenting together and the workshop was a learning process for me too.
One of the things I decided to throw into the mix was something on narratives. I based it around an article by Robert Pryor and Jim Bright (2008) on archetypal narratives in careers work. They, in turn, based their article on a book called The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker (2004).
Rachel Mulvey’s post last week on the existential nature of continuing professional development has turned my thoughts once again to the concept of meaningfulness.
Partly inspired by Rachel’s idea, I have been writing an article for the Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling on the use of narrative techniques in reflective practice for guidance practitioners (I know, exciting stuff, huh?). As part of my research for this piece I came across an article by W.D. Joske on ‘Philosophy and the meaning of life’. Unlike many of the philosophy articles I’ve tried (and failed) to get to grips with, this was actually quite readable because Joske demonstrates a subtle, dry sense of humour in his writing.
…many people are afraid of philosophy precisely because they dread being forced to the horrifying conclusion that life is meaningless, so that human activities are ultimately insignificant, absurd and inconsequential
The world is neutral and cannot give meaning to men, If someone wants life to be meaningful he cannot discover that meaning but must provide it himself. How we go about giving meaning to life seems to depend upon the society we accept as our own; a Frenchman might leap into the dark, an American go to a psycho-analyst, and an Englishman cease asking embarrassing questions.
As well as being amusing, Joske is quite analytical and, in his attempt to explore meaning, he breaks down the meaninglessness of activities into four essential elements: worthlessness, pointlessness, triviality and futility.
Over on Careers Debate we are having an interesting discussion about narrative approaches to career coaching/counselling.
Coincidentally, I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book which looks at how we reconstruct our memories and perceptions in order to keep them consistent with our self image.
In Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explore the various ways in which we delude ourselves in order to maintain a favoured self-perception. They discuss how this desire to avoid cognitive dissonance leads to extremes of self-justification in all areas of life. They provide examples from the realms of politics (obviously!), international relations, law enforcement, psychology, alien abductions, scientific research and marriage guidance.
It is an interesting book, if somewhat depressing. Personally, I think it should be compulsory reading for any politician or business leader. There is enough thought-provoking material in here to sustain several heated discussions. However, one particular set of research studies caught my attention because of their potential link to narrative work with individuals.
As the post on existentialism has been one of my most popular, I thought I would do something more on the subject of meaningfulness.
And when it comes to meaning, it seems that three is a magic number.
But first a short story (involving three workers)…
A traveller comes across a group of three men who are working hard smashing boulders with large hammers.
He asks them what they are doing.
The first man answers, ‘I’m using my strength and skill to make big rocks into small rocks.’
The second man answers, ‘I’m working to earn money so that I can feed and support my family.’
The third man answers, ‘I’m preparing the raw materials to build a cathedral for the glory of God.’
Which of these three men was doing the most meaningful work?