Dear Leader,

This Key is about the power of meaning. Can you remember an age when you used to wonder for hours about the meaning of things? These wonderings inspired you to discover and find out more. This was the impulse of consciousness awakening and it propelled you to search for meaning and ask even more questions.

Later this impulse was re-directed to achieving, finding success, and getting ahead. The importance of “why” was re-focused into “how” to achieve your aspirations. What does meaning mean for you today? Did you know there is a risk in cutting off meaning in your life? How do you use the power of meaning in your endeavors and pursuits?

Please forward this Key to friends, family and associates. We’ll be glad to hear your comments.


Aviv Shahar

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The Power of Meaning

Have you noticed what impacts your stamina, endurance and ability to cope and stay focused? Why are you able to find great focus and endurance in certain situations and not in other ones? Here is a story about how stamina, endurance and focus grow because of meaning.

At age 13 my sole focus was to win the national cross country long distance running championship in Israel. I had been competing for a couple of years and felt strongly this was my year. I won a few races but the most prestigious competition, the Mount Tabor race, was the championship I had been dreaming about. It was a challenging 4K meter race and there were hundreds of us storming the starting line. In order to move forward when we got to the steep climb, I had to survive the first 300 meters in a good position. I knew the talent of the other runners and decided which one was going to be my hardest competitor. We were in similar physical condition and were both capable of winning, so the race had to be won based on strategy, determination, will power and focus.

Back then (1972), the mind-body connection was not main-stream knowledge as it is today, but I knew deep inside me that the race was to take place and be decided in our minds. The mind that was the more focused and determined would lead one of us to win.

Now here is the question that this key poses: What focuses the mind most? What determines whether your mind is focused or not on what you do? It is not the outcome; it is the meaning of the outcome for you.

The Power At The Point of Testing

The meaning-the reason why we do what we do-is the propulsion connecting us to where we are going. The meaning you find in what you hope to realize determines the effort and the intensity you bring. It determines the fullness of engagement that you are able to generate when you prepare. Your practice and the power of meaning you build in it is what you bring to the point of testing.

Long distance running meant much more to me than beating the other runners and winning. It meant defying the heart specialist who had told me a few years earlier I shouldn’t exert myself because it would be too hard on my heart. Running for me was about overcoming my fear and about believing in myself. And then it was about pushing my limits and reaching to touch an invisible something else beyond my physicality. That was the reason, the driving motivation.

To win the Mt. Tabor race (Hakafat Hatavor) that day I had to open up an impossible gap from the other runners going uphill and then keep it through the downhill finish. I had to win the race by the 3K point and then keep my distance until the end. I executed my plan as I had envisioned it, and I was 20 meters ahead at the top of the hill but I was exhausted, almost gone. I now needed to find my second wind to stay ahead. I said to myself, “Just relax here a little and let yourself recover on the flat path before the downhill dash.”

Then the unthinkable happened. Out from the chaotic lines of spectators standing on the right side of the dirt road to cheer on the runners, two guys jumped into the path right in front of me, some 500 meters before the finish line. They were off and running, leading the race as if they had been there all along.

There were no referees present at that point to see them jumping into the track and I couldn’t be sure that the imposters would be disqualified. There was no other option; it was a compulsion of anger and determination. I had to take on the two imposters, win the race and then disqualify them. What happened next was a little mystical and difficult to explain. It was as though the external events slowed down while I opened my stride. I ran the downhill part like I had never run before. It was a messy dirt road where you could easily lose balance, but I was gliding through the air as though I was floating out of my body. I was first to the finish line. It took twenty minutes before I was fully conscious again, able to stand up and walk.

Peak experiences like this one are exciting, but their long lasting power comes out only when you continue to update their meaning, when you bring them forward to the present. Instead of only reminiscing nostalgically about it, the focusing experience becomes an internal compass, an energy signature that guides you. The gold medal I received is one thing; the gold medal I have chosen to carry forward is the gold inside. This gold is my conviction that we can defy the odds, defy our fears, make the impossible possible, unleash the healing power of the body, and find can-do power, joy and freedom.

The blind spot we suffer is thinking that meaning doesn’t mean much. As a leader you mustn’t forget that the story you tell yourself and your people-the story you believe in and live by-provides the meaning. The meaning creates the motivation, the focus, the determination and the power that fuels your efforts. The gold medal I received was about winning the race. The meaning I carried forward is my belief in our capacity to overcome impossible obstacles. This lesson informs and inspires my work today.
Now it’s your turn. Turn the Key. Trace important moments in your life and update their teachable meaning into your today. Discover afresh the meaning of your current endeavors and find the power it will unleash in you.

© Aviv Shahar

Your Engagement Benchmark

Discover The Engagement Benchmark – 15 points you can use to assess your own engagement and the engagement of your team. Evaluate these 15 points to identify strengths and opportunity gaps in the Anatomy of Engagement as it applies to your team. Click here to discover your Engagement Benchmark.

© Aviv Shahar