Research Paper By Debbi Knauft
(Strengths-based Transformational Coaching, UNITED STATES)
The coaching process can be used to uncover meaning and purpose during the various developmental stages of life to improve motivation, resilience, performance and health. This paper will present a brief review of the published research around this topic. It will raise awareness of the value of coaching for purpose and it will introduce readers to the Blue Zones Project™ and the Purpose Moai as a model for the group coaching of seekers who are on a journey of purpose discovery.
Since clients are on a journey of discovery through the coaching process, they will be referred to as seekers in this paper. The following definition of coaching, adapted from Center from Creative Leadership,will be used.
Coaching is a relationship between a coach and a seeker, in which the two collaborate one-on-one and/or in a group to assess and understand the seeker and his or her development needs, challenge current constraints while exploring new possibilities, and ensure accountability and support for reaching goals and sustaining development. (Allen, Manning, Francis, & Gentry, 2011)
The literature indicates that meaning and purpose in life are two distinct, yet connected, aspects of life. Meaning in life refers to one making sense of their life. It involves interpreting and reflecting on experiences and determining how fulfilling life has been, i.e. quality of existence. Purpose in life is directed towards motivation for goals, direction and future planning, i.e. purpose of existence. The literature discusses the inter-relatedness of meaning in life and purpose in life. The definitions suggest that individuals who have a sense of purpose in life experience life as meaningful, and individuals with a sense of meaning in life experience life as purposeful.
(George & Park, 2013) (Makola & Van den Berg, 2008)
Contrary to the teachings of Freud and Alder who claimed that the purpose of life was to attain pleasure and power, Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, concluded that the primary motivation in life is man’s search for meaning. (Frankl, 2006)
Richard Leider, executive coach and founder of the Inventure Group describes purpose as:
an expression of the deepest dimension within us—of our core or essence, where we have a profound sense of who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going. Purpose, when it is clear is the aim around which we structure our lives, a source of direction and energy, and the way the meaning of our lives is worked out in daily experience. (Leider R. J., 2010)
Numerous fields of study, including positive psychology and evidence based coaching provide a framework from which best practices in life coaching can evolve. A relatively new field of study is emerging that links quality of life with identification and application of purpose
and meaning. It is appropriate to include meaning making within coaching best practices.
Meaning-making models are evolving from four major fields of human psychology and philosophy; Existentialism, Cognitive Behavioral/Positive Psychology, Constructive Development, and Primary Capacities. While research in this field is just beginning to expand, some of the earliest results indicate there is a correlation between meaning and purpose and improved well-being and health. (Moore, 2014)
The Purpose Effect
The term Purpose Effect has been chosen by this author to describe the impact living with a sense of purpose has on motivation, performance at work, resilience and health. The Purpose Effect is at the heart of coaching at Kairos Possibilities. The Purpose Effect results in authoring one’s own life through choices and actions that are inspired by integrating values and priorities into a life aligned with strengths and passions. The Purpose Effect extends beyond the individual seeker to create community. A community aligned with its strengths and values is empowered to express and live in its passions for the benefit of the entire community. Power is heightened through the synergistic effect of this process throughout the community and the world.