The Amplifiers of Meaning

Glide path: are you on-course?

Excerpt from The Search for Meaning at Work: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Purpose to Engage and Fulfill Your Workforce by Steve Van Valin, SVP of Culture Transformation

As planes start to make their approach to an airport runway, a transmitter along the designated runway sends out a radio signal that generates a “beam” on the pilots’ instrument panel. This beam creates a “glide path” to the runway: in aviation terms, the glide path is the steady, downward-sloping final path to a destination. By staying within the glide path, the pilots steadily proceed to the touch-down zone where they can safely land. 

The glide path constantly tells pilots where they are in relationship to having a safe and successful landing. It provides confidence they are “on course.” Their ultimate purpose is to land the plane and passengers safely, period. 

I see our personal purpose as providing the same function as the glide path instrument at airports. Our source of purpose transmits a signal that creates a glide path that guides us to our destination. In other words, each of the 11 amplifiers of meaning is a transmitter that creates its own distinct glide path of purpose. 

How do you know if you are staying within your path of purpose, that you have not strayed off your glide path? This is where meaning comes in. If what you are doing—your job, your task, your activity, whatever it may be—gives you a sense of meaning, then you are on course and making progress toward your purpose. If you can feel it, then you can be assured that you are still on your glide path. 

While the workers in the printing shop may never have visualized the glide path of purpose as shown in figure 2.1, no doubt that they felt their work had meaning, and their sense of purpose toward the goal of benefiting their family is what kept them motivated to come to work for decades. They stayed on course to fulfill their purpose.