This post begins with a tale…

Once upon a time there was a man traveling on a long journey in a foreign land. As he was walking, he saw a very long, very high wall. As he approached it he saw a builder and asked him what he was doing. The builder replied and said in a rather dull and exhausted tone:

“Every day I get up and lay brick after brick, day after day. I have been doing this for years now and I don’t think it will ever be done. I am not even sure what this thing is for and why I am doing this job.”

Interesting, the traveller thought kept on walking along the wall. A little further he saw another builder, and he asked him the same question. This builder had a different response to the same question. This builder enthusiastically said:

“I am laying bricks to build this wall to strengthen and protect our kingdom! This wall will ensure my children and all the other villagers are safe for generations to come. This work will make sure our nation survives and we will leave a legacy. I cannot wait to see what a difference it will make for all!!”

Do you want to get the most out of your employees while giving them the best environment to thrive?

If your employees know why they are here they will work harder, longer, manage stress better and are less likely to get sick.

The world is going through challenging times. Companies must find a way to motivate their employees to navigate through some very tough terrain and un-explored territory by grounding their work in purpose.

Just having inspirational mission or purpose statements will not suffice. CEO’s, boards, and management must resolve the tough but critical questions that underlie their statements.

What is your firm doing? And why?

You must work to identify and know your purpose. Then you need close the knowing-doing gap by figuring out how your organization can deliver on its purpose in its everyday activities. Most importantly there should be clear alignment between employee purpose and organizational purpose. This is crucial.

This is brought about by having the conversation, identifying purpose, clearly articulating it and then acting on it.

If there is a gap between the professed purpose and what is lived and practiced in reality, the organization will have a problem.


How will your organization keep thriving today?

It’s safe to say we all want our people and employees to be motivated and healthy.



  1. Motivation

Purpose is key to motivation, and motivated employees are the key to realizing the organization’s purpose. Get this symbiotic relationship right, and your organization will thrive.

How do you get there?

A powerful purpose statement is one that achieves two objectives: clearly articulating strategic goals and motivating the workforce. When employees understand, embrace and embody your organization’s purpose they will be inspired to do work that is great. They will work harder and longer and are less likely to suffer the negative effects of stressful environment.

You need to answer the following questions:

What is your reason for existing, your reason for being?

What value are you giving to your customers?

Your product/service is a means to an end. What is that end for the customer?

What is the higher order benefit (non-material aspect) they are getting from using your product/service?

Why is your firm uniquely capable of providing it?

Your organization should create, communicate and live a purpose firmly grounded in the market they serve, your customers.


Your purpose is your promise to customers

In evaluating whether your firm has effectively articulated and communicated its reason for being, consider the following questions:

Is your stated purpose relevant to your existing and potential customers? Is it clear who’s lives you are improving and in what way?

Is your purpose unique? What gap in the market will be left if you disappeared?

Do you own your purpose? Do you live it? Can you fulfil it more effectively and excel at it? Can you do it better than your competition and why?


Re-thinking purpose can be immeasurably beneficial for the synergistic goals of the company, employee motivation and their mental and physical health.




 2. Health

Research increasingly suggests that meaning and purpose is important for health and well-being.  

Meaning and purpose are connected to what researchers call eudaimonic well-being. This is distinct from, and mostly inversely related to, happiness (hedonic well-being).

The former is a deeper more enduring state and people who fall in this group have lower levels of pro-inflammatory gene expression. While the latter is more superficial and transient and people in this group have higher levels of pro-inflammatory gene expression.

Eudaimonic well-being (eudaimonia) refers to the subjective experiences associated with living a life of virtue in pursuit of human excellence. The phenomenological experiences derived from such living include self-actualization, personal expressiveness, and vitality.

People who score high on eudaimonic well-being, those who have purpose in life is linked to a number of positive health outcomes:

  • Better sleep
  • Lower risk for CVD and diabetes
  • Lower risk for neuro-degenerative disease – dementia
  • Lower risk for disability
  • Lower risk for premature death

People who score high on EWB are also more likely to be pro-active and embrace preventative health services and utilize resources at their disposal.

In other words DOING good is better that FEELING good. If employees don’t know what the higher order benefit it is that they bring to the world, their customers, they are not tapping into this potential resource that DOING good has to offer. This is why it’s so important to articulate and act on the organizations purpose. Employees need to know how their day-to-day activities are serving the organization’s purpose and how that is DOING good to their customers and the world at large.

Meaning and purpose isn’t something you pick up at the shopping center or pharmacy. You don’t find it on Netflix, Google, social media or even download from the app store. There is no instant or quick fix for this.

Meaning is not found or stumbled upon. It’s created.

Some people can implement this by themselves, others may find it very beneficial to work through this process with a Meta-Coach.

Having purpose is not a fixed trait, but a modifiable state. It can be developed through the above strategies that help you engage in meaningful activities, environments, people and behaviours. This process requires introspection and dialogue, then a commitment to act.

Conversation alone is not enough, you need to take action. It entails introducing new activities and people into your life, exploring new territory, expanding your perspective and having the humility to acknowledge that you don’t know it all and that it’s ok to ask for help.

The key to a healthier, motivated, productive, and more fulfilling life isn’t knowing the meaning of life — it’s building meaning into your life. One day at a time.

Please see the three relevant case studies/examples below:

1. Jim Stengel (Stengel 50)

In 2011 Jim Stengel (former global marketing officer of P&G) together with Millward Brown, conducted a study based on empirical research involving 50 000 brands. They wanted to uncover which brands grew the most over the previous decade, both in terms of customer bonding and shareholder value-brand equity.

So they developed a list of the world’s 50 fastest growing brands, which built the deepest relationships with customers and achieved the greatest financial growth from 2001- 2011.

Investment in these companies – the Stengel 50 – during that time period would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500. (The S&P 500 index is a basket of 500 of the largest U.S. stocks, weighted by market capitalization. It seeks to represent the entire stock market by reflecting the risk and return of all large cap companies.)

Once they identified these brands, the burning question was what were the common principles that sparked and sustained their growth?

And they found the answer. There was a cause and effect relationship between a brand’s ability to serve a higher purpose and it’s financial performance.

The central principle of their finding was the importance of having a brand ideal, a shared goal of improving people’s lives, from employees to customers. The company had meaning and purpose. And that was to contribute value.

A brand’s ideal or purpose is its essential reason for being, the higher- order benefit it brings to the world.

Bottom line is that meaning and purpose powers growth for companies.

2. Welcome to the rat race

Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biology, neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University.

He conducted the following experiment to illustrate the different effects stress can have, depending on the context or frame of reference.

The experiment entailed mice running on a wheel. Normally, when monitored, mice show many health benefits that come from exercise like improvements in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and neurochemistry.

In this experiment he changed the context for the 2 mice.

While both mice were running on a (motorized) wheel at a constant speed: one was trapped on the wheel. This mouse could not exit the wheel.

The other mouse was able to exit the wheel, so the second mouse was doing the same work, (under the same load/stress) but it had a choice.

The mouse doing it out of choice showed the beneficial effects that come with exercise. But the mouse that was trapped in the wheel and was forced to run; the exact same amount of running, experienced negative shifts in its overall health metrics. Blood pressure, stress hormones etc. went up!

This is a powerful experiment that illustrates the effect that meaning and purpose can have on performance and health.

How we frame an experience or how we set the context for people can create positive health effects from the same environment. And the exact same experience without meaning can create negative health effects.

If an employee can derive value, meaning and purpose out of his work, he/she is in a much better position to perform optimally and not experience burn-out.

If an employee deliberately does something uncomfortable and they can see the benefits and the bigger picture (value contribution, meaning, purpose etc.), certain areas of the brain positively impact the release of chemicals in the brain that enhances health. This in turn enhances performance. The knowledge that they are deriving meaning out of the task has a positive effect on things like dopamine, anti-inflammatory markers and immune function. Compared to when an employee doesn’t derive meaning out of the same uncomfortable task. There is a clear distinction between motivation, desire and stress tolerance when meaning and purpose is derived.

So when you have the knowledge that a task or goal is aligned with your goals and you are contributing value in the bigger picture, even though its’ painful/uncomfortable has a very different outcome in health and performance than when you don’t.

If an employee can derive value, meaning and purpose out of his work, he/she is in a much better position to perform optimally and not experience burn-out.

Robert Sapolsky revealed that the medial prefrontal cortex (the brain area responsible for planning, deep thinking, evaluation) sets context for everything in your life. It defines the meaning of your experience.

MPC is the knob/switch that allow us to frame the experience so that it creates positive health effects from the same environment. And the exact same experience that we are forced to do can create negative health effects. The MPC gives context to the other neural circuits in the brain. In doing so sets the context of your experience so that you can derive tremendous health benefits.

Metacognition, state awareness, state management, EQ, gratitude, empathy, value contribution etc. activates PFC. (All our interventions are aimed at activating the pre-frontal cortex)



3. Amy Wrzesniewski’ work

Amy, a psychologist at Yale University has been studying how people’s mental conceptions of their jobs affect performance.

She found that employees have one of three orientations or mindsets about work. They either view work as a job, career or calling.

People with a job see work as a chore and their pay check as a reward. They work because they have to and constantly look forward to the time they can spend away from their job.

Then, people who view work as a career, work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed. They are invested in their work and want to do well.

People with a calling view work as an end in itself, their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on personal strengths and gives them meaning and purpose. Unsurprisingly, they don’t only find their work more rewarding, but work harder and longer because of it.

What is most interesting is that it doesn’t matter what type of job one has. There were doctors that saw their work as a job and janitors who saw their work as a calling.

This means a calling orientation can have just as much to do with the mindset as with the actual work being done. And this means that most people in most positions can find meaning and purpose in their work by changing of their mindset towards work or a process we call re-framing in coaching. Even the smallest tasks can be imbued with meaning when they are connected to personal higher goals and values. The more we align our daily tasks with our personal purpose/vision, the more likely we are to see work as a calling.

So what?

Be clear on your organization’s meaning and purpose. Become clear on what the higher ideals are. How is your organization improving people’s lives? What is the meaning and purpose of the organization and how is the organization contributing value to its direct environment (employees) and the extended environment (clients and outside world).

Know it, speak it, live it.

Have clear goals around this and help employees see how their personal goals are connected to the organization’s goals and larger purpose.

Help employees see the bigger picture and how their roles and daily activities are contributing value to the organization’s higher ideals. Help employees see their work as a calling.

Healthy organisations are made up of healthy, motivated individuals.

Wellness and performance are two sides of the same coin. These functions are interdependent in that enhanced wellness predisposes to enhanced performance

While the gratification of enhanced performance impacts positively on wellness




About the author: Reinhard Korb is a Meta-coach and integrates neuroscience, psychology, epigenetics and lifestyle for optimal health, performance, engagement and productivity. As the founder of Keep Thriving, he has facilitated and helped organisations and individuals actualize their potential.