Communications Team author Kymberly Dakin
When’s the last time you had a “meaningful” day?
Would you recognize one if you experienced it?
The way you might react to this question makes complete sense to me. “Another THING I have to shoehorn into my day??? I’m already overextended by work and kids and aging parents and everything going on in our country now…
"Why should I care about having a meaningful day???”
A lack of meaning and purpose is often directly related to depression.
Rates of depression and anxiety are skyrocketing in the young adult population in our country. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3.
And in the workplace….
Currently, only 36% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work. And that’s at 20% globally.
Only 13% of Americans consider their work to be truly meaningful.
But before we tackle big overwhelming questions...
...about whether our LIVES are meaningful, let’s just start with a day or two of something that resembles meaning.
A year or so ago - during the pandemic of course, with all its many lessons and realizations, I came across a piece by Maria Shriver in her Sunday Paper weekly newsletter. She relayed the story of a friend who had arrived at her house for their daily walk with a large glass jar and a bag of marbles.
He asked her how many days she thought she had left on the earth plane. And how many of them would she consider, at the end of her life, to be “Meaningful” days?
He then invited her, at the end of each day, to consider whether the day had been meaningful, and if it was, she got to put a marble into the jar. He also encouraged her to consider exactly whatmade the day meaningful.
That’s an interesting question...
What makes a meaningful day for you? Is it the same as a good day? Maybe, but in my estimation, not really.
Getting back my "Marbles"...
I was inspired to fill my own glass jar with meaningful marbles. (I enjoy the metaphor of getting back any “marbles” that I may have lost along Life’s way!) I chose a vase that had belonged to my mother. This felt important. At the end of her life, my mom was filling her days with ever smaller loads of laundry, just so that she could feel like she was accomplishing something. It’s a sad recollection and I would like to transform it.
Now how does this odd marble ritual relate to adult learning?
If we look at the TD Capability Model, the second Knowledge & Skill statement is as follows:
Knowledge of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, techniques, and tools, for example observations, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and/or assessments.
And I would add…Marble Jars. The qualitative assessment of whether the day was meaningful, and the quantitative assessment of the actual number of marbles that have hopefully built up, over time.
I’ll ask again, "what makes your day meaningful?"
I’ve discovered that for me, if I’ve learned something new, if I’ve captured a story to include in the book I’m writing, if I’ve taken the time to have an in-depth conversation with a loved one or a friend or an off-the-surface interaction with a stranger, if I've had a particularly revealing coaching session with a client, then I’ve had a meaningful day.
Do you remember that video...
...that came out maybe a decade ago about having to fill a glass bowl with rocks as a demonstration in choosing priorities? The marble jar reminds me of that video - the discovery there being that if you fill up the bowl with the large rocks first, then the small stuff can fill in along the edges. But if you put in the small rocks first - representing all those tiny tasks we try to get out of the way before tackling the big stuff - then we have no room left for our real priorities.
And the question then extends to those priorities…will any of them, at the end of our lives, be considered truly meaningful?
In the Positive Intelligence coach program...
...we talk about the five Sage qualities - one of which, and, as it happens, the one I struggle with most, is The Navigator. The essence of The Navigator is the question in the previous paragraph
“At the end of my life, will this project/task/relationship/obstacle be truly important?
It’s way easier just to ignore that question and let my Hyper-Achiever saboteur stay in charge, convincing me that the more tasks I can check off my list in a day, the more accomplishments I can claim, then the more successful/important/worthy of love I will be.
It’s summertime people!
If we can’t slow down enough to insert some meaning into our days during this season, then maybe its time for some “To-Do’s to fall off the list.
In these precious summer months, may you discover, along with the beach reads and the BBQ’s, the satisfying delights of getting back some of your "marbles" with a few meaningful days.