Thursday, August 09, 2007

Purpose and meaning

Two powerful drivers in our live are 'Purpose' and 'Meaning'.

Don't mix them up or you'll get into trouble.

Team targets
When you set the right targets (Purposes) in life, it will inspire and encourage people in helping (you) to achieve them.

However, don't expect that everyone is behind that target for the same reason. People get inspired in many different ways. Don't disturb personal dreams of team members. Dreams give that essential 'meaning to life'. Create awareness within a team that it's inspiring and useful that individual members give meaning in different ways. This recognition will stabilize the team process and increase the team output.

Personal targets
When setting personal targets in life, ask yourself what this target means (reasons why you get enthusiastic) to you in life.
If you can't sum up easy several different sorts of meanings (motivators), it will be risky to go after the target. If, for example, you've got only one motivator, only a slight disturbance in your meaning (new insights) will result in doubt about wetter you are on the right track and behind the right target.

Some practical examples...

Play chess
Target : Checkmate other king
Meaning examples : Fun to play check, to be a winner, to learn to think strategically, etc.

Develop technological society
Target : Set First man on the moon
Meanings examples : Realize almost impossible things, integrate different sciences, fun, explore the universe, develop new materials, etc.

The difference between purpose and meaning is well illustrated in this parable by Massimo Pigliucci:

Difference Purpose & Meaning

Suppose you enter a restaurant and are given a menu to pore over. The purpose of that menu is to make it possible for you to eat at the place. The meaning of the menu is to present you with a series of choices to fulfill that purpose. If you don't understand the language in which the menu is written, the menu has purpose but no meaning. If the menu is made of pictures of the food items available and you start to eat the menu, you are confusing purpose with meaning!

So to understand your friends better in life, listen well to them when they talk about their purpose in life and never forget to ask what that purpose means to them. Never mix up purpose and meaning again.

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