the centrality of meaning
If you aren’t already familiar with his work, Dan Ariely is a leading behavioral economist: a field that combines the insights of psychology and economics. Like political psychology, behavioral economics recognizes that human beings behave in fundamentally irrational ways that often contradict the theoretical and mathematical models cherished by the field’s parent discipline. Ariely’s best known work Predictably Irrational is well worth your read because many of its findings and insights have significant implications for politics.
In this TED lecture, Ariely examines what makes us feel good about our work. It isn’t money or happiness. In fact, it’s a sense of meaning and purpose. When people experience meaning and purpose in their work, not only do they feel better — they become significantly more productive. Ariely reports on the findings of several extremely clever experiments that demonstrate this quantitatively. We believe his findings apply as much to the question of labor as they do to the question of politics.
At First Person Politics, we believe that the most successful institutions, movements, and lives are built on a foundation of meaning. Indeed, effective leadership is as much about the cultivation and mobilization of meaning as it is about anything else. There’s a reason the great kings of literature and history give rousing speeches before leading their troops into battle. There’s a reason people still read newspaper horoscopes and believe in guardian angels, even though science says these things are hocus pocus. And there’s a reason people turn to their faith to mark life cycle events like births, weddings, and funerals — as well as during times of crisis. People are hungry for meaning. It’s in our nature.
As Ariely’s experiments demonstrate, meaning is an extremely powerful motivating force. No doubt this is because it operates simultaneously in all seven Layers of Influence, and serves as a bridge between the interior world of the psyche and the exterior world of the cosmos. Using tools from political psychology, you can learn how to harness meaning to bring about transformative social and political change. First Person Politics will show you the way.