Add meaning and kill your darlings

One of the most important concepts that I focus on being a romanticist, is meaning. It’s a term that is difficult to describe using words, but nevertheless carries great weight wherever we go. A job with little meaning is demotivating for most of us. A job with meaning can give you the energy to get out of bed with a smile on your face.

If you – like me – want to create a positive work environment, it’s important to create meaning (for yourself and for others).

In my experience, there is one simple way to give meaning to anything: to spend time and energy on something. Because in the end, that’s where meaning comes from:

Meaning = energy (spent) * time (spent)

Things don’t magically gain meaning just by being present. We give meaning to these things, whether they are people, pets or a car. We give them meaning by spending time and energy on them.

Some examples:

  • If you talk a lot to your pet and cuddle with it, they will gain meaning to you.
  • If you bake and bring cookies to work, work itself will gain more meaning to you (because you spent extra time doing something for work). The great thing is that your colleagues will also add meaning to you if they eat your cookies.
  • A task that you finish as swiftly as possible, will have little to no meaning to you.
  • If you prepare a grand entrance on your first day on the job, you will gain meaning to everyone present.
  • If you spend half an hour chitchatting with colleagues each day, you can create meaningful relationships at work.

Unfortunately adding meaning will take time. That’s why it’s important to decide for yourself what you want to spend time on, and on who. Because based on those decisions, your environment will automatically gain meaning to you.

Kill your darlings

One of my teachers once taught me about the ‘kill your darlings principle’. It’s about what happens if you unintentionally spend a lot of time on anything, and gain an emotional bond (meaning) which makes it difficult to do the right thing. Which is quite often: destroy your old work and start over.

When I was developing my first website, I spend way too much time finetuning all these useless features. I learned a lot from those self-made challenges and it was a lot of fun. However, this website gained a lot of meaning to me. But it wasn’t good (since it was my first). It can be pretty devastating to put your old work aside and start on something new. This is what kill your darlings means. We need to train ourselves to let go of everything we fear to lose. Or else we might get stuck in horrible situations.

Positive meaning

As I explained, it’s pretty easy to add meaning to almost anything. You just spend time and energy on something. But being the romantic I am, I learned the hard way that adding meaning is not good in itself. Meaning will add weight to any kind of relationship you have. If you add meaning to a stressful relationship with someone, this relationship will end up becoming more stressful. If you spend more time and energy on a horrible date, the date will only get more and more horrible.

The trick is to add meaning to the good things in your life. That’s why its important that you decide where you add meaning in your life:

  • Do you like baking? From experience, I can say that everyone at work loves pie (or just the time spend with each other)
  • Do you like beer and cocktails? Gather a group of colleagues who like to get a drink after working hours.
  • Are you into sports? Invite a colleague to go squashing.

The 8 hours you spend working, don’t have to be filled with ‘work’. I advise everyone to spend some time with other colleagues and do fun activities with other colleagues. This is the best way to add positive meaning to your life. For yourself and for your colleagues.

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