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Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance, which will satisfy his own will to meaning. Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

As Viktor Frankl says, our search for meaning is the primary motivation in our lives. It is this search that makes us the spiritual creatures that we are. And it is when this deep need for meaning goes unmet that our lives come to feel shallow or empty. For a great many of us today this need is not met, and the fundamental crisis of our times is a spiritual one.

The search for meaning is evident in so many aspects of our lives. What is my life about? What does my job mean? What is leadership? Where is this company that I have founded headed? What does it mean to be me? What does it mean that I am going to die some day? Why commit myself to one thing or another, to one person or another---or to anything?

People living in earlier societies would not even have asked such questions. Their lives were culturally embedded in a set framework. They had living traditions, living gods, living communities, functioning moral codes, problems that had known boundaries and fixed goals.

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First, some definitions: To be spiritual is about relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit which is not tangible nor material. Spirit is defined as the vital principle or animating force or energy traditionally believed to be within living beings. The soul is the spirit in man and is often conceived in religions as an immaterial entity that is immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.

Leaders of organizations, who are concerned with positively affecting the soul and providing employees with the freedom to practice their diverse religious beliefs, may decide to manage the workplace environment with spiritual sensitivity.

Experts say U.S. workplaces have become more religiously diverse, forcing companies to rethink everything from vacation policies to the cafeteria menu. Click here for the state of spirituality@work today in the U.S.

Becoming Servant Leaders

In business and in most other fields of life, the concept of the servant leader brings together service and meaning. American thinkers have taken it to mean a leader who has a sense of deep values and who consciously serves these values in his or her leadership style. But in American business, particularly, deep values refer to matters such as excellence, fulfilling one's potential and allowing others to do so, achievement, quality of products and services, and a commitment to never-ending growth. By contrast, in keeping with the spirit of Eastern humanism, traditional Eastern values center on areas like compassion, humility, gratitude, service to one's family and service to the ground of being itself.

As leaders, each of us must 'sing our song'. We must all, through our own deepest resources and through the use of our spiritual intelligence, access the deepest layer of our true selves and bring up from that source the unique 'music' that each human being has the potential to contribute.

This task of self-discovery will not come easily. Our culture is even spiritually dumb in the literal sense-we have no adequate language to express the richness of the human soul. Words like 'joy', 'love', 'compassion' and 'grace' allude to so much more than we can articulate. Still discovering deeper layers of ourselves that we are used to living matters. It requires us to find some grounding in the self for meaning that transcends the self. This will not be a simple task for a people who have grown used to five-easy-steps-to-self-improvement.

Find a guide, a coach, a mentor to help you along this path to become the effective leader you know you can be.

Sources: SQ Connecting with our Spiritual Intelligence by Danah Zohar and Dr. Ian Marshall (Bloomsbury)

The Wall Street Journal's Science Journal, March 26, 2004


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What is the context of our lives?

Our modern age is defined by such things as the breakdown of family and community and traditional religion, and the loss or absence of heroes, and peopled by young humans trying to make sense of them. We live at a time when there are no clear goal posts, no clear rules, no clear values, no clear way to grow up, no clear vision of responsibility.

We lack an overall context for our lives, a natural flow of meaning of which we can simply be a part. In many ways this spiritual desert has come about as a product of our high human IQ. We have reasoned ourselves away from nature and our fellow creatures, and we have reasoned ourselves beyond religion. In our great technological leap forward, we have left traditional culture with its embedded values behind. Our IQ has diminished labor, increased wealth and longevity and invented countless trinkets, some of which threaten to destroy both our environment and us. But we haven't found a way to make it all worthwhile.

Modern culture is spiritually dumb, not only in the West but also, increasingly, in those Asian countries influenced by the West. By 'spiritually dumb,' we have lost our sense of fundamental values---those attached to the earth and its seasons, to the day and its passing hours, to the implements and daily rituals of our lives, to the body and its changes, to sex, to labor and its fruits, to the stages of life, and to death as a natural ending. We see and use and experience only the immediate, the visible and the pragmatic. We are blind to the deeper levels of symbol and meaning that place our objects, our activities and ourselves in a larger existential framework. We are not colorblind, but meaning-blind. How did we get this way?

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Room for thought

Chimpanzees are our closest living relative. Their genomes are about 97% identical to ours. How, then, can so few genetic differences account for our language-using, cathedral-building, opera-writing and computer-inventing?

Scientists have taken a big step toward solving that mystery. In the journal, Nature, they report the discovery of the first genetic difference between humans and chimps that produces a clear functional difference. And it seems that this mutation occurred at roughly the same time that human like traits first appeared in the fossil record. Yet, the gene has nothing to do with intelligence or other traits, at least not directly.

Within a handful of genetic differences between humans and chimps, they found that a non mutated version of MYH16 (a gene that affects muscle proteins) gives non-human primates huge jaw muscles. Whereas, the mutated MYH16 gene keeps humans from making this jaw-muscle protein, and so we have smaller jaws.

The larger the muscle, the more bone is required to anchor it. As a result, gorillas with big jaw muscles also have extra bone on top of their skulls that prevents the cranium to grow. But in humans, who don't need extra skull bone, the skull keeps growing. And so does the brain inside it.

'Something going on outside the brain turns out to have a very important impact on what's going on inside it,' says Dr. Hansell Stedman of the University of Pennsylvania. 'This was a surprise to all of us.'

Our Brain

The self has an ego (rational) periphery, an associative (emotional) middle and a unitive (spiritual) center. A well-balanced, spiritually intelligent self needs something of each layer. But in traditional societies, the center, the inspiring, energy-giving, meaning-giving, unifying spiritual level of existence, is held in the middle layer. The traditions of the community encapsulate deeper spiritual insights and values, so that the individual relates to the spiritual center through his culture and its traditions. He does not have to relate directly to the center on his own, as an individual.

Few of the craftsmen who built the great European cathedrals of the Middle Ages, for instance, consciously knew the principles of sacred architecture, but absorbed them as they learned their craft. Few medieval peasants had to consider the meaning of life or the meaning of their work because these were embedded in the necessities and traditions of daily life.

That shared community simply does not exist for most urban people in today's world. We are deeply undernourished in that whole associative, middle layer of the self. We have few collective traditions that point beyond the prosaic, everyday level of life that ground us in the deeper origin and meaning of our communities and of our life within them. We have few 'gods' and 'goddesses', collective heroes whose lives exemplify some deeper layer of human possibility or aspiration and touch our own with a sense of grace. We have to take personal responsibility for meaning, to create new access to it and use it intelligently.

So Baby Boomer

"Once the fear of death is transcended, life becomes a transformed experience because that particular fear underlies all others. Few people know what it is to live without fear--but beyond fear lies joy, as the meaning and purpose of existence become transparent." Power and Force, The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.

What is Success?

Only you know what's important in achieving your vision of success. However, we all seek shared outcomes to provide a foundation for where we want to be. Here is one client's definition of the foundation for his success:

"Have you ever watched, listened, and felt someone tuning a guitar or other string instrument? That is what it is like to have the good fortune of connecting with John Agno. He is a living tuning fork and you're that string instrument. Today, I have greater self awareness, am more in step with my calling, and better able to appreciate the journey, including the valleys, than ever before. Thanks, John for helping me get attuned with my LifeSignature."

You, too, can drastically increase your chances of succeeding in business and life when you learn from a coach or mentor – someone who once stood in your place and overcame all obstacles to earn success and happiness.

The common thread throughout history has been that you learn mastery performance from the master. Whatever quality or skill you want to develop, you "get it" by hanging out with people who have it.

Coaching Tip

Leadership coaching matters.

Leadership coaching by certified executive & business coach. Click for information on Coach John Agno

Leadership development is not an event.

Albert Einstein once said, "We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve."

Leaders know and science has discovered emotionality's deeper purpose: the timeworn mechanisms of emotion allow two human beings to receive the contents of each other's minds. Emotion is the messenger of love; it is the vehicle that carries every signal from one brimming heart to another.

Leadership happens in a series of interactive conversations that pull people toward becoming comfortable with the language of personal responsibility and commitment.

That is why leadership development is not an event. It is a process of participating in respectful conversations where the leader recognizes his or her own feelings and those of others in building safe and trusting relationships.

For human beings, feeling deeply is synonymous with being alive.

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