This is the sixth post in our series about the five meaningful states, known as the “Five Strivings”, or “The Meaningful Path”. Throughout this series we have been exploring each of the five meaningful states: prosocial, peace, happiness, engagement, and prosperity, and their applicability and impact in everyday work and life.
If you haven’t yet had the chance to read the earlier posts in the series you can catch up on them by starting with the first post of the series, Five Ways We Strive and Thrive and each of the subsequent ones. There is a benefit to allowing time for each one to be considered thoughtfully and in the context of your own life experiences before moving on to the next, so you may want to come back for some review if you choose to go through them together.
In today’s post we’re going to explore the fifth of the Five Strivings: prosperity. Remember that these are in sequential order, so with prosocial, peace, happiness, and engagement providing a strong foundation we are able to experience and explore this meaningful state of prosperity.
Primal Root = Growth
To start, let’s think about the term “prosperity”, or to be “prosperous” and what it means. It’s common that people think of financial success and wealth. Others may think of experiencing good fortune, but not necessarily related only to financial matters. Both are true because experiencing prosperity relates to being successful, flourishing, and thriving.
As a meaningful state, prosperity refers to how much in our lives we are experiencing and living out our meaningfulness. It’s about building and growing in the areas that are important and personally meaningful to us. Authentic and meaningful engagement is an expression of our meaningfulness, as we explored in the previous post on engagement. How much of that we really do in our work and lives, and in our relationships with others, is a measure of our meaningful state of prosperity. The more meaningfulness we experience and engage in, the more meaningfully prosperous we are.
The root of prosperity is growth. As we grow throughout life, we collect experiences, knowledge, stuff, titles, networking connections, friends, relatives, money, and the list can go on. We grow in who we are and how we see and show up in the world. How much of that growth is aligned with our meaning is one way to think about how meaningfully prosperous we are. In other words, maintaining and growing throughout life in ways that support our meaningfulness will make us rich indeed. I’ll share a personal example of how I took a big step in my work and life toward growth and meaningful prosperity.
My Journey Towards Meaningful Prosperity
Early in my professional life, I was very concerned with figuring out the steps to being successful so that I could climb the ladder and achieve. Money, titles, and recognition were the ways I thought I could measure my prosperity. As I grew in my career, my understanding of success evolved, and I thought differently of what being successful looked like for me. Money was still a big part of the measure, but titles and recognition were replaced by impact (the effect of the work I carry out, purpose), influence, and autonomy.
I continued to study meaning and purpose more deeply, and as I did, my evolving understanding of them made their way into my life in many ways, but in my professional life that helped me push my definition of success even further. I asked myself how I could be living my meaning more fully, and in what ways should this guide my next steps toward meaningful prosperity.
I worked for an amazing company filled with great people, I enjoyed working with my boss and looked forward to our weekly check in conversations, I was being supported and my professional development was a priority that the company was willing to invest in, I was paid well, and I had the autonomy to contribute in creative and innovative ways. Yet, my next steps in my meaningful prosperity evolution would take me further out of my comfort zone than I’d ever been before. I made the decision to step away from my corporate job to find ways to grow meaningfulness more in my own life and to share it with others who want to do the same.
In a way my decision to leave my role was about removing some of the restrictions that the structure of working in a role within a company place on what I can focus on, where I work, and when. After all, even with autonomy there is the organization’s mission to fulfill and a task at hand to complete, and even working with great people there is still a limitation in working with only those who are also employed at the company. In another way, though, my leaving removed the safety that structure brought as well. And, as risky and scary as that was, it helped me to expand personally into some areas that I needed to in order to further grow in my personal and professional life.
I have been able to explore some of the ways that physical and mental health are connected and to focus on both for their benefits. Joining a gym and participating in a strength training program, starting a meditation practice, learning about and challenging my perceptions around healthy eating, and adopting a more balanced approach to how I prioritize within my life are some examples.
How I show up in the world, through what I create, has always been important to me, but my expanded focus in this area is showing me how far reaching a concept that can actually be. I continue to focus creativity on my writing and my work, but with an expanded frame. For example, creativity in the tasks that I complete has always been important to me, but now I can exercise creativity in the structure of my offerings (workshops, coaching, blogs, etc.) and even in what I choose to focus on. This remains an exciting space to explore more as part of being engaged with my meaning (see the previous post in this series for more on that.)
Seeing the beauty in the world and experiencing it has been a surprisingly enriching expansion of my focus on the meaningful. I have written regularly on this topic through journaling, started taking piano lessons, and have been taking the time to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world around us more deeply. There is a peace in these practices, but there are also benefits that span other areas as well. I find that it helps deepen my perspectives, appreciate details, and connect even more authentically with others.
Spending more time with my family and being more present with my children (my daughter in college and my son as a preteen) was something I knew I wanted to do more of. What I found is that the focus on how we spent time and sharing openly and often with them my growth and development efforts and outcomes has enriched our relationships even more so. In fact, each of us has been pursuing meaningful growth in our own ways and have been able to support each other through this purposeful focus. Remember that prosperity is not about being meaningful or not, it’s about growing in and improving on how much of that meaningfulness we experience and express. This growth in my family relationships has allowed me to expand on what was already a very meaningful foundation, boosting my prosperity even further.
In addition to continuing to pursue my MBA at UMass Isenberg school of business, which I have been pursuing as a form of growth in my learning (which is very meaningful to me and my business acumen),I have been able to expand and deepen my understanding of business in many ways, including strategy, planning, management, quality, systems, processes, client acquisition and support, accounting, staffing, etc. My time working in leadership roles and in business operations at companies earlier in my career prepared me for some of this, but it’s a different kind of learning when you experience these as a sole proprietor, as I do with Yellow Wood Coaching, or with a partner, as I do with the Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose. Expanding my focus on meaningful growth with this business focus has helped me grow as a well-rounded and experienced leader, in planning, and in execution as well. All of which enable me to bring my meaningful purpose into reality for those I work with.
Growth in any form can be very uncomfortable, but it’s the stretching out of your comfort zone that results in the expansion we’re looking for.
Growing our meaningfulness in life adds to the richness of our experiences and expression of that meaning. The growth in and accumulation of these experiences and expressions directly contribute to how meaningfully prosperous we are.
Consider Your Own Growth Toward Meaningful Prosperity
How meaningfully prosperous do you feel in your own life, work, relationships, etc.?
What are you doing to continue to grow and develop in your meaningful experiences and expressions?
Have you identified your own next steps?
Where to start?
If you’ve identified your next growth focuses on your path to meaningful prosperity, great! If you’re looking for inspiration or aren’t sure where to start, a helpful step may be to start with what’s meaningful to you.
Make a list of some areas of your life (ex. work, relationships, hobbies, health, spirituality, etc.)
Identify in each area what you find meaningful and why
Pick an area of meaningfulness (or a few) and identify how you could boost this meaningfulness in your life – either in the area it’s in or by expanding to another area (ex. boosting the meaningful expression of creativeness you find through your hobbies by being more creative in the work you do)
Plan out and take some small actions that start you on the path of growing in this meaningfulness
There you go, you’re on your way to boosting meaningful prosperity in your life!
We’ve covered all five of the Five Strivings, prosocial, peace, happiness, engagement, and prosperity. Next, we’ll be wrapping up this short series will a final summary post. See you there!