Understanding what makes something “meaningful”
In the course of a day, our senses open us up to millions of stimuli, each of which presents itself and demands our attention. To cope with the avalanche of input, our system quickly decides which stimuli are significant enough to be acknowledged and, which are so significant that they must be remembered.
In other words, what matters…and what doesn’t.
The stimuli we remember can be significant in two ways. On a primal level, some of our memories help us survive against danger. On a higher-order level, some of our memories are cherished because they are relevant and emotionally important to us. These memories are meaningful because they directly connect to what we hold to be important: our needs, beliefs, interests and aspirations.
When something remembered is “meaningful” to us, it resides with one foot in our brain and one in our heart. When a situation provokes us, we rapidly bring the memory to mind as a thought wrapped in emotion. The resulting feeling often spurs to action and re-engagement with the source of the memory. Assuming the second experience is in the same vein as the first, there is a compounding effect that makes the memory even more meaningful.
For a business looking to better engage its employees, being meaningful by doing things that matter is the key to being cared about enough to be remembered and cherished. Creating a meaningful workplace is about establishing a high-order connection with employees and benefiting from the compounding effect that comes from a constant stream of meaningful experiences tied directly to the needs, beliefs, interests and aspirations of employees.