Episode 20

#020 - PERMA-V: Finding Meaning

Published on: 21st December, 2020

Today we discuss the concepts behind finding meaning in our lives. Meaning is fairly easy to define, but harder to realize through actions and behaviors. In today's episode we try to make the content practical through learning about how our Core Values can help us find meaning.

If you'd like to take a similar Character Strengths survey like we discussed about today, you can find one here.

We also discuss how Character Strengths help shape our Core Values, and therefore meaning and how all of these concepts apply to taking on personal responsibility.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].

Transcript

Robert Greiner 0:07

Can you hear me? Okay?

Igor Geyfman 0:09

Yes. You look and sound great.

Charles Knight 0:11

Robert, for me. Your video is not in sync with the audio though. I don't know if that's just me.

Robert Greiner 0:17

Oh, yeah, I can see it on my too.

Charles Knight 0:19

Okay. Yeah, that's, I just I can't look at you because it throws me off.

Robert Greiner 0:23

That's generally true in person

Igor Geyfman 0:26

Every time, look away.

Robert Greiner 0:29

We have had technical difficulties constantly. Yeah, I don't. Once all this is over we can we should record in the same room, that'd be so much easier.

Charles Knight 0:37

Igor and I were just saying it's really just this episode. It's meaning. It's the meaning episode. So we got to fake out the universe and talk about achievement.

Igor Geyfman 0:46

As soon as you're like, let's do a curveball. Everything's fixed. Everything is perfect. As soon as we're like, Okay, let's go for meaning. Things are breaking down, Robert.

Robert Greiner 0:56

ecially under difficult times:

Charles Knight 1:35

Yeah, yeah, happy to share the history behind that. So we're talking about meaning today. And if I think about all of the conversations that I've had with people about perma V, the element that is most difficult for people to comprehend and apply is meaning. And I'm not sure why that is. Also, positive psychology, they typically have interventions that are scientifically researched, and backed, that you can apply to each of these things. And when they exist, we cover them in our episode, I couldn't find one for meaning. And what I did is substituted my own activity and exercise, not one that I created, one that I have done in life that I think fits for meaning, and it is a core values exercise. Because I think, as difficult and abstract of a question, what is the purpose of my life, which is what I think about when I think about meaning, identifying and thinking about and trying to apply values that are true to you, throughout all areas of your life. That seems like that might be a good, good exercise to do and a good goal to have to help you discover, hey, what is the purpose of your life. So that that was the genesis of the worksheet. So my hope is that similar to how we did for engagement, we talked about a little bit about our strengths, our lesser strengths, we might do that same thing today.

If we have time, if it comes up, we can talk about our core values.

Robert Greiner 3:16

. And that helped me focus on:

Charles Knight 3:53

ebsite that said, Hey, here's:

Robert Greiner 6:16

So you posted this in Slack, like a while ago. Now, let me explain a little bit of the worksheet. So core values and essential intentions worksheet. So there's two steps, the first step and really, three, because there's like a one a and one B. Igor, is this what you did as well?

Igor Geyfman 6:37

Yes, I did.

Robert Greiner 6:38

ll just trying to get through:

They're a basketball team, Robert. Yes. from Los Angeles.

Okay. Do you know who Magic Johnson is?

Charles Knight:

Yes.

Robert Greiner:

yes. Okay. Do you know who Pat Riley's

Charles Knight:

head coach?

Robert Greiner:

Had you heard?

that career best effort. And:

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I'm glad it was useful. There's a couple of things that I want to ask you about. One is maybe an observation, and maybe we can go off on this tangent later if we want to. Love of learning is one of your character strengths, isn't it?

Robert Greiner:

Yes.

Charles Knight:

So that there's potential overlap and connection to the character strengths that we talked about before. The other thing that I wanted to point out is that the essential into I think, both exercises, the one I did and this worksheet, it gets you to think about the value itself, and arrive at your list of three to five or whatever. But it also gets you to think and then this worksheet is through this essential intent. Through my exercise, it has you write out what does success look like, if you live out that value, and the commonality in those things between the essential and 10. And what is success look like? Because you have to apply the value, right? It's not enough to just say, I value trust. But it is something to say hey, in all situations, I'm going to trust by default. That's an actionable thing. And because it's an actionable thing, it's something that you can measure, like you said, and it's also something you can create goals around. And I use my core values to inform goal setting, right for the year. And one is, this one is around one that I have is around learning. As I pursue knowledge to better myself and others around me, that's what success looks like. And success also means that I accept that there's so much I don't know in the world. And every year I set a goal for, what I will, what do I want to learn. And this year, it was Perma-V. And I took a four part five part maybe specialization and Coursera to satisfy my goals that are tied to this core value. So I love the fact that exercises point to the need to apply these right and then it forces you to think about Okay, how can I use this value, apply this value live out this value and day to day life? Because I think it's through that. Like finding ways to do that. It gets me meaning. The tie this back to meaning which is the topic of the day. It's meaningful if I can provide clarity for somebody else. They're unsure as to what to do and I provide a perspective that lets them have an aha moment. That feels really good. That gives, what I do and who I am and all of my actions, meaning. And so that's why I really love this exercise.

Robert Greiner:

Okay, so to be clear, you took a different exercise. So core values, exercise, that still helps plug into the meaning and that ability, that component of flourishing, you came to some of the same conclusion. So I think that's helpful because Igor and I took this other one is probably a little bit faster. But and I think that's what we've been saying all along is, it doesn't matter what direction you go down. It's the act of going through the exercise, getting some of that clarity and then making it actionable that really matters. So we'll post a couple of options. But if you can, if you find one better that you like, use that it's not the tool itself. It's the actual thought process and crystallizing what you're thinking.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. But Igor, man, Robert, and I have been hogging the discussion about values, I would love to hear your experience with the worksheet, and some, if not all of your values.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I did the first part of the worksheet and TBD on this central intent part. So that was part two. But Part One was identifying the top five. And your observation of Robert, I think is even more true in the ones that I chose for, for the exercise. And so in no particular order, they are curiosity, aesthetics, and beauty, knowledge and love of learning, hard work. And the last one is family and relationships. So those are the top five, I'm going to go and do this central intent exercise, because I do think it's important to connect those two intentions, and also things that you can measure and do.

Robert Greiner:

I am curious, though, do you have any leaning on what one of your or more of your as an essential intentions would be? Like? You've you hit your core values that are aligned with your strengths? Do you have any thoughts on what you're going to do from a practical perspective?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I

think the one that's coming up for me, that's the most practical and the one that's most important has to do with the family and relationships. And that's me getting married soon. Yeah, I got engaged last last year, early this year. And probably my biggest intent, in the short term is to continue to carry that to fruition. So I'm really excited about that. And that's probably my focus of the five.

Charles Knight:

A question that came up for me which, again, this may be another tangent. But this is what we do when we chat. This is why I love it. There's a question in my mind, do we value what we are strong in? Or are we strong in what we value? Because you said, Igor, you've got a lot of overlaps with character strengths and values. And I wonder, could be seen as like a chicken or an egg problem? Do we value it first? And then we develop a strength in it? Or is it because we are strong and we therefore value it? That's probably a rhetorical question. But I wanted to share that

Robert Greiner:

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers. And that part of the book tackles a very similar question, which is that of experts. So one of the examples he used was hockey players in Canada for some time. Turns out all the hockey players were born in professional hockey players were born in like the January, February, March timeframe. And somebody who has like a scientific mind looked at and said, That's weird. Like, why are they why is this the case. And it turns out that their cut off for the age group for hockey leagues in Canada, favored people who were born in January, February, March, it was very, it's very competitive right there. There's lots of different leagues. And so basically, if you were born, in the first quarter of the year, you had 9, 10, 11 months of growth on your peer group, which, when you're nine, like that really matters, right? Your technique could be 10%, bigger than the people around you. And so they're taller, they're faster, they're more mature, they can follow directions more. And the coaches look at that and say, Oh, hey, you're my best player, you need to go to the next League, and they go to the next league and get the better training and the better coaches. And it's just a virtuous cycle, at that point. And so I think, as kids, someone probably already told Igor, early on, hey, you're really good at drawing, you're really good at art. And that self-reinforced into practice and belief that you're an artist and over time that grows into expertise. So I would say probably more often than not, you definitely are good at the things that you value. Good at your values, versus a unit you're already good at. That's at least my unscientific thought, after remembering part of reading one book.

Charles Knight:

I've never read that book before. It's like such a best seller, well known thing. I haven't read it. But thank you for that.

Robert Greiner:

And I know you're interested in storytelling. Malcolm Gladwell is that phenomenal storyteller? And so I think that's if you just want to be in the presence of someone who's just exceptional at what they do. Like he's as good as they come.

Charles Knight:

Do you lisen to his podcast Revisionist History?

Robert Greiner:

No, nope. Just read the books. He has a master class, master class app on writing, which I thought was really cool. I still haven't taken that, but I don't really, I've never listened to the podcast. Have you?

Charles Knight:

And yeah, it's good. Anyway, back to Igor. Thanks for the diversion. Robert.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I and I agree with Robert, I think that the list that I have, I don't remember not valuing those things. But I do think that all of these values were engendered and instilled in me by my family, and my environment, and then reinforced and supported, and then turned into a strength and so on. Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

One more thing on that, too. I think that major life events come into play as well, at certainly after getting married, having kids, family is much higher on my list, than it would have been when I first started my career, when I first started was achievement, spent a lot of my time at work, thinking about work, really liked to being an engineer. And that was a, that was a great time in my life. But that was not a time where family was a core value. And that's why I think this is important to review over time, because your core values change as you change as a human. And you don't want to be acting on old core values just out of habit. Right? Like it's a good thing to think through what they are today and what you want to do about it moving forward.

Charles Knight:

I don't know how I feel about that. Robert, I think you're right. But I have a slightly negative reaction to that. And I think, hold on, what am I trying to say here?

Igor Geyfman:

Is the negative reaction to this idea of the changeability of core values, or is this something else, Charles?

Charles Knight: and crises, bring it back to:

Robert Greiner:

Oh, yeah, I agree. I would agree with that. When I brought I use family as the example that was specifically because of multiple positive events in my life getting married, first child, second child. And those I could feel I remember when very specifically, when my daughter was born, that pole of I'm at work, but I want to be back at home. And I'm not sure like what that balance looks like. And that was an adjustment period where I think my values evolved or changed. And my work behaviors and my personal behaviors had not caught up yet. And that was a time filled with tension, because I, one didn't see it coming; two when you're in it, it's really hard to know you're in it and self diagnose, right. And then over time, looking back, I'm like, Oh, this is what happened. This is how I would do it differently. And it's because family it was put in such a high core value, or as at one of my top five, where before, maybe it wasn't, or it didn't need to be because I could manage everything I needed to manage without actually having to explicitly prioritize it in my life.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I think, Robert, you bring up something that I want to discuss with you all. To me, meaning, like, finding meaning, I think, more often than not emerges from suffering, like going through painful moments, or crises, like a pandemic, or losing a loved one, or losing your job. I think those and although you said hey, having kids is a wonderful, joyful moment, it also brings about a lot of suffering. You described it as a tension between work and career, which you valued a whole bunch and family, which has dramatically changed by the addition of a baby.

Robert Greiner:

I do want to point out just real quick there. It was incredibly difficult. Like my daughter who's great, she didn't sleep very well for two years. My wife works as well. That was hard. It's really hard to introduce a human into your life or the social contract is 100% dependence. That's difficult for everybody. There's no situation where raising a kid is easy. You get the benefits of it as you go through it. But it's it's also really hard, like the hardest thing I've ever done. And so yeah, it's definitely on the net positive side. But I do want to just call that out real quick to say that not super easy. And that comes into the the core values.

Charles Knight:

I think I've asked you all this before offline. But Have y'all read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl? He's a Holocaust survivor?

Robert Greiner:

I haven't I added it to my list when you brought it up the other day, though,

Charles Knight:

Igor, have you read it, I can't remember,

Igor Geyfman:

No, same thing, added it to my list when you mentioned it.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, he has a quote here that I'll read that connects back to this idea of meaning, often emerging from suffering. And he says, ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for. So ever more people today have the means to live but no meaning to live for. And I think this ties back to the fact that in this day and age, we are living in the best possible moment in history, no matter where you are in terms of socio economic status, right? It's like people live longer people have more now than they ever have in the world's history. And it's a very safe place. We are in very safe places in our lives and in our careers. And we're lucky, we're very lucky as a result. But that often means that we have not many moments of suffering, compared to some other people, today and in the past. And to me this point at, I think what a lot of people have been talking about in this crisis globally, as a result of the pandemic, is the need for resilience, and how fragile, we can be as humans sometimes, because we don't know how to deal with suffering. And to me, when I suffer, big suffer, small suffer, what helps me to get through it, is knowing that, once I get through it, I can look back on it. And I can find meaning in what I went through. And oftentimes it's a hey, if I've gone through this thing, like I go through a divorce, I will be able to support and help others who go through that, at some point in the future. And it could be as simple as that. And I would love to get your take on this idea that meaning emerges from suffering, because it's a different angle to meaning. Core values is a very practical way to think about it. But I don't know that how do y'all react to this idea, this notion that you have to suffer? Maybe not have to. But suffering often results in meaning emerging?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, maybe if I think about that, I think responsibility, taking on responsibility also helps derive meaning. So if by suffering, you mean, experiencing a catastrophe, like that's, I think that's part of it, but also the ongoing pursuit, and work and labor of accomplishment and getting things done and bearing responsibility, I think really can help provide meaning in life, whether that's at work, whether that's with the family, we even talked about kids, right, there's a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with having a child and with raising a child. And I would say that being a parent, having kids is highly meaningful. And I wouldn't know I wouldn't necessarily say that I suffered. But I definitely had that responsibility, and continue to have that responsibility. And I think that's where a lot of meaning feeling of meaning.

Suffering as a loaded term, it's, to me there's a spectrum, right suffering could be the, you suffer from the monotony of the endless stream of meetings in a day. But it could also be at the higher end.

Yeah, and really, to help me because I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this, if I look at the definition, it's the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship. And so this like hardship idea of like actually bearing a burden and taking responsibility and meeting a commitment, I think pushes you towards meaning. And you can see that the opposite is true, where if you go back to the quote, if you have no responsibility in life, that's a really great way to be in that position, where you feel like devoid of meaning and things like that you don't, you're not plugged into something bigger than yourself. And I think that can lead to some of the the negative side effects that you mentioned earlier.

Igor Geyfman:

Charles, I do think that there is something there and part of the evidence that leads me there. I I love language. And I took Latin, most people took useful foreign languages when they were in high school, Spanish, or German or French or something like that. I took Latin, which is a dead language, nobody uses it, except for doctors writing prescriptions and so on. And when you mentioned meaning and suffering the same sentence, it made me think about an out of date word for suffering, and the Latin word for suffering, which is, parses, and processes the core word for passion, and, and the word passion comes from the Latin word for suffering, and an a very maybe simplistic way, things that are meaningful, we can say we're passionate about. But we can also say they're worth suffering for, maybe you're not suffering for them all the time. But they, if the opportunity came, where you had to suffer for one of these things, you would do it. Rather than not if it was for something that wasn't really important to you. If one of those values on that worksheet, that you identified that not really important, like, yeah, I'm not going to suffer for that if something comes up in my life where I have to make that decision. And so maybe it's not continuous suffering, or continuous struggle, but it is the willingness to do so. And having done so, in the past that that's some moments. So that's,

Robert Greiner:

That makes perfect sense. Because things aren't easy all the time. So that's what allows you to persevere and actually get through a meaningful chunk of experience such that you improve, so I totally buy what you're selling there. Like that makes a lot of sense to me.

Igor Geyfman:

Right on hope, I'mglad that was useful. Three years of Latin in high school, finallyprovide the value after all this time.

There you go, you can email your Latin teacher now, say, Hey, I did use this.

Charles Knight:

I took three years of Spanish, and I don't use it to me Latin, it's like a meta language, I think you've, you've got one, one apostasy or taken Latin.

Igor Geyfman:

I took it for a very practical reason, Charles, because I felt that it would be the best language elective to prepare me for the SAT's, the verbal section, and I did exceptionally well on the verbal part. And I that's not because of any sort of high intelligence that I have. It's the practice that I put into Latin and understanding the core of our language, partly which is Latin, partly, which is dramatic in nature. So understanding both those languages really helps you, you can read a word that you've never seen before. And you can very much dissect it and be like, okay, does this have a Greek, Latin or Germanic root? What is it related to? What's the context? And so I don't always use lessest one of these Robert. I do.

Robert Greiner:

On special occassions.

Charles Knight:

That's awesome. Yeah. As you were talking, I scan through another quote from Viktor Frankl, which is, I think speaks a little bit to what you're talking about Igor, about, what are you willing to go through? What are you passionate about? And it is what is to give light must endure burning. That's it, say whatever you value, you've got to be willing to put in the effort, the work, even if it's difficult that time? Yeah, I highly recommend the book, it's actually pretty short, a pretty short read. And what's even more interesting as that everybody talks about his accounting of the Holocaust, but he's a psychologist. And he actually tried to create a new branch of psychology, where he looked at a lot of the disorders that we observe in humanity. And he tried to look at those as symptoms of a lack of meaning. And so I'll link to the fields that he tried to create. And he's written some books about into the show notes, because I can't remember what it is. But it's a very refreshing way to look at things similar to how Igor, you were saying, positive psychology is a nice, nice way to think about a lot of the negative things that we hear, like depression, anxiety, yes, he has a similar view. And he ties it back to meaning.

Robert Greiner:

You just connected a couple of dots. For me, maybe it should have been obvious, but it's like when muscles aren't used, they atrophy. There's all this research around, if you retire to leisure and you stop working like you die sooner, that kind of, there's physiological changes that happens when you're not struggling against some kind of goal or outcome. And the I could definitely see how ailments maybe not as the sole cause of an ailment, but ailments are exacerbated by caused by this lack of meaning and passion, and willingness to suffer. Yeah, that's deep. Yeah.

I'll leave it with this one thing. It's called logotherapy. That's based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is defined meaning in life, so it's pretty cool. Yeah.

Yeah, really interesting. Alright, guys, hey, thanks for spending your time with me today. Having virtual coffee, although I don't think any of us are drinking coffee.

Charles Knight:

Too late in the day for that but it was a great discussion. Thank you all for doing the exercise, the one that I didn't do for having a conversation about meaning.

Robert Greiner:

Alright, y'all

Igor Geyfman:

Have a great one.

Robert Greiner:

Have a great weekend. Bye. That's it for today. Thanks for joining and don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

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