Posts Tagged purpose

Four pathways to meaning

another year over... by piotr (peter) chlipalski

I have no idea what it means but I like it.

Regular readers of this blog will know that a recurring theme is the notion of meaning in our working lives. I’m also a big fan of simple models and frameworks to help structure and analyse complex ideas. So, I was excited to discover an article which not only conducted an extensive review of the literature of meaning in work, but which presented a simple way of categorising the various ways in which people find meaning.

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Is your work meaningful?

sysiphus-tee-wht by fouro boros

Beware: worthless, pointless, trivial and futile activity ahead

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.

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What is our output?

Audio by Sergiu Bacioiu

So, do your dials go up to 11?

I’ve been having some very interesting conversations lately on LinkedIn groups.

In one discussion, a Canadian career service manager described how his team had been increasingly using the term ‘career literacy’ to describe what they were trying to develop in their students. He asked what we thought of the term.

Part of me really likes the idea of literacy as a set of skills that enables you to interact with information. According to the UNESCO definition, literacy involves “a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society“. That fits rather well with the aims of a careers service.

My reservation with the term is that, in a university setting, literacy could be interpreted as rather a basic level of learning. By the time students have reached university, they should have gone beyond literacy and be operating in the realm of analysis and critical thinking. Would it have face value with the academic community?

So, what other terms could we use and what would they imply? Can we come up with something which appeals to those who are looking at immediate solutions as well as giving a strong message about developing an ability to deal with issues over the entire course of your career?

This kicked the random word generator in my brain into overdrive and I tried to come up with a range of phrases to describe what we are trying to nurture in our clients.
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Questions about guidance

Question mark

Any questions?

Tristram Hooley who writes the blog Adventures in career development (and who also happens to be the Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) at the University of Derby) recently posted about a symposium that he was hosting. He wanted to develop a number of questions to get the discussion going. I liked his questions about guidance so much that I’m just quoting them here:

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Are you like a quilt?

Now, which square do I want to be today?

Now, which square do I want to be today?

During my training I remember coming up against a few theories that I really struggled with. Mostly because they seemed to me to be overly academic and I couldn’t see how they could be implemented effectively in my everyday work. One of these theories was Integrative Life Planning (ILP).

ILP, developed by L. Sunny Hansen in the late 1990s uses a quilt as a metaphor. The quilt is composed of many different levels, all telling their own story but also weaving together to represent a person’s whole life. This quilt can be understood on three levels:

  • Global world where there are dramatic, overarching changes
  • The career world, where profession knowledge and practice are changing
  • The ILP model itself, where a person’s world is ever changing

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