Submitted by Luis A. Marrero for the Positive Living Newsletter (September 2016). Read the rest of the newsletter here.
It has been a tradition of this newsletter to feature INPM members in order to make them known to others, and to reinforce the bonds of friendship and collaboration within our community. Recent editions of the newsletter have focused on introducing the new INPM Board members, and (as Deputy Chairman of the Board) it is now my turn. First, I’d like to tell you how I became interested in existential and positive psychology. Second, I will explain what I stand for. And third, based on what I stand for, share with you how I go about doing what is meaningful and important to me—including my time as a member of the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM).
The Role of Existential and Positive Psychology
I first became interested in existential and positive psychology in the late 1990s, particularly because of a quote from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. The line that impressed me profoundly was, “Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.” At the time I read that line, I was dealing with a challenging personal situation, and I was trying to find reasonable answers to my problem. Pondering on the significance of Frankl’s words I reached the conclusion that “Mankind…. does not suffer from a lack of answers. Rather, it suffers despite the answers being available.” Think about it. We live in an era of knowledge explosion and yet—it is a period of immense uncertainty. So, embracing psychology, I embarked on a quest to discover if there was something wrong with our knowledge and belief scheme or if it had more to do with our inability to learn and apply such knowledge for good.
What I Discovered
True to the Meaningful Purpose Psychology Method, people give meaning to self, others, things, situations, and concepts. Concerning people, we use language relating to our concepts of self, branding others and ourselves, labeling people, self-defining, stereotyping, and other similar identity-type descriptors. Actually, we frequently use adjectives to define self and others, such as smart or foolish, depending on our mood and intention. These descriptions mean something—they inherently have and convey beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and degrees of worth and importance; which eventually prompt behaviors and produce consequences. Said differently, branding oneself or another (inescapably) sets the behavioral agenda.
It is fair to ask: What consequences of behavioral agendas are triggered by meanings? There are two fundamental options:
- To thrive by defining oneself and others as being worthwhile and valuable, following meaningful eudaimonic values, and believing that all humans have innate strengths and potential for good.
- To wither and flounder by defining oneself and others as objects or unworthy, lacking an ethical compass, and failing to make the most of one’s innate strengths and potential for good.
Over time, as the result of my studies, practice, research, and influence in particular by existential and positive psychology, the choice I faced was simple and uncomplicated. To improve, I needed to take the first step: change the meaning I had about myself, others, and circumstances. Such a decision eventually gave birth to logoteleology or meaningful purpose psychology—and transformed my life for the better.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
My Meaning Compass – What Do I Stand For?
As mentioned above, the conclusion about what compass I would follow to give my life meaning and purpose was simple and uncomplicated. I chose to thrive by defining self and others as being worthwhile and valuable; by following eudaimonic meaningful values; by believing that all humans have innate strengths and potential for good; and by committing to act consistently with such propositions. Embracing and defining my life with such a meaningful purpose motivated me to the following goals:
- Define the (eudaimonic) values-meaning-compass I would follow to live my life and make decisions,
- Pay attention to and monitor my beliefs and attitudes toward myself and others
- Strive to behave consistently with my newly found meaningful life purpose
- Work hard to become the best version of myself by setting realistic and meaningful life aspirations, and
- Contribute to worthy causes that do good for others with like-minded individuals.
How I Contribute
Committed to worthy causes, I wrote a more personal meaningful life purpose aligned with the goals set above. My meaningful life purpose guides and influences all my personal and professional calling roles. This includes roles such as husband, parent, friend, board member, editor, teacher, author, facilitator, coach, consultant, etc. I strive to live my life in a way where all my roles are shaped by, are consistent with, and are subject to my meaningful life purpose. I am far from perfect, that is why I approach my life as a quest or a striving. I am pretty good at asking for forgiveness, forgiving myself, and moving on. One of the things that give my life deep significance is learning and growing, even when it is by facing my imperfections and occasional errors of judgment. The following are two examples of how I fulfill my meaningful life purpose.
In my role as INPM Board Member, I work hard to deliver the right results in service to my peers and the members we serve, to be predictably self-aware, meaningful, other-oriented, sensible, ethical, and respectful in my dealings with people. As an author, coach, facilitator, and consultant, I enjoy helping individuals, groups, and organizations from around the world discover how to genuinely engage in what they do, and to prosper through a meaningful life purpose. I look forward to continuing to building friendships, and engaging with INPM members and colleagues in meaningful work that makes this a better world.