Series: Powerful Meeting Lessons from Leaders [Viktor Frankl on Meaning and Purpose]

Dr. Viktor Frankl

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

— Viktor Frankl

It’s only fitting that a platform called MeetingFull, our nod to the word Meaningful, pays homage to the brilliance of Dr. Viktor E. Frankl and his weepingly eloquent book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book Dr. Frankl bravely guides his readers through what he believes to be the reason he survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, while others did not. Setting aside that no one could have outlived a gas chamber, Frankl’s torture in the concentration camps was equally deadly to most. Where Frankl stood apart from his fellow inmates was that he recognized the value of his life and the known purpose which his life still needed to achieve in order to be meaningful. That important goal continued to be just outside of his grasp, forcing him to keep fighting for life because otherwise his existence would end with no meaning. Frankl believed that many other people who faced the same torture that he endured did not survive because they didn’t know what they still had to live for.

To understand Dr. Frankl’s approach we need to take a look at Frankl’s fundamental philosophy that man is not seeking pleasure in life, which more closely aligns with a Freudian mindset, as there was very little tangible pleasure in the concentration camps. Rather, Frankl found that in life man is constantly on a quest to find what is personally meaningful to him and a desire to lead a purposeful life. This leads him to respect his role in life. Frankl argues that the idea of existing in a tensionless state, called homeostasis, ultimately leads to deep unhappiness. Through his research, Frankl persuades his reader that  man’s mental health is at its best when there is some tension in his existence, compelling him to constantly strive to fulfill what he finds to be his unique purpose in how he spends his time. 

Also Read: Series: Powerful Meeting Lessons from Leaders [How Begin/Brzezinski Found Common Ground]

Question: Is the enormous amount of time spent in meetings used meaningfully?
Answer: Sadly, not even close

An employee in a mid-level role in an organization attends roughly 62 meetings per month. Executives spend ~72% of their time in meetings. That’s a lot of time in our lives going into meetings, across all positions at a company.

Two studies tell use what a sorry state we’re in when it comes to using our time meaningfully. A study published in The Muse shares that 67% of Executives report their time spent as a failure. That’s a mind-boggling amount of life being spent with no purpose or meaning. In a poll worded differently, Harvard Business Review found that Senior Managers reported 71% of their time spent in meetings to be unproductive! Ouch.

Meeting Effectiveness

Meeting effectiveness

How can we reconcile this critical motivation for our lives to be constantly moving forward with purposeful and meaningful goals with so much of our day being used meaninglessly? Where are we failing to bring purpose to the enormous amount of time spent in meetings?

For an event to be purposeful, we find that it generally meets the following three criteria:

  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Doing

Let’s apply those same ingredients to a purposeful meetings:

  1. Thinking = PLAN
    A well thought out meeting AGENDA.
  2. Communicating = MEET
    A well run MEETING that accomplishes the agenda goals.
  3. Doing = FOLLOW-UP
    Real-time creation and ownership of ACTION ITEMS that are the result of a meeting.

Let’s make it our mission to spend our time meaningfully by bringing purpose and respect to the enormous amount of time spent in meetings.

Plan + Meet + Follow-up = Using meeting time PURPOSEFULLY!

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