The search for meaning and purpose

By Jeff Strese

Start with gratitude

In the past 18 to 24 months in my role as a family wealth educator and coach, I have increasingly seen individuals across generations struggling with and trying to redefine meaning and purpose in their current life. Certainly, the global pandemic has triggered this in many of us. However, for family members who have access to an abundance of resources, this issue involves both a unique challenge and an opportunity.

The Challenge

Feelings like anxiety, fear and regret can arise quickly and make us feel directionless. Why? Because money can’t give you meaning and purpose. Money can be a very useful tool, but it is inherently inanimate and only a means of currency and exchange. At a personal level, it can either accelerate us toward a path of disillusionment or provide a useful means to enrich our lives and the lives of others. If you have found yourself slipping into disillusionment because of isolation and intense rapid change, it may be time to re-anchor yourself with a commitment to self-reflection, coaching or counseling.

The Opportunity

In my work with individuals and families, I have found these values as the foundation for making meaning out of wealth: Gratitude, Humility and Generosity. I believe they are critical in finding one’s own personal meaning and purpose in life and are on the “Mount Rushmore” of personal transformation. Without these values to anchor us down, all of us are tempted to either polarize into overconsumption and selfishness or freefall into guilt, shame and scarcity. Without the boundaries of these pillar values, harmful negative beliefs can infiltrate our money narrative.

How do we get out of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that take us off our game and muddle our journey toward meaning and purpose? Consider these value-driven practices:


Mindset: Begin each morning over your coffee or tea going through a simple gratitude exercise. Examples include prayer, a mindfulness activity and journaling. This practice connects positive brain activity to the emotional center, which releases hormones that calm the mind. And that is some good juju.

Behavioral outcome: Pausing and verbalizing gratitude throughout the day gives you a positive outlook and broader perspective in problem solving. It helps you remain more objective under pressure.


Mindset: Self-confidence without boasting or putting yourself above others.

Behavioral outcome: Listen deeply to others with the intent to understand their point of view and feelings first, before sharing yours. Self-deprecating humor is a sign of high emotional intelligence.


Mindset: Sharing and giving with a joyful heart and the intent to transform and enrich the lives of others and the communities in which they live.

Behavioral outcome: Sharing and giving to the point we feel a personal sacrifice that moves us out of our comfort zone and routine.

You may need to dig deep and do some personal work with a coach or counselor. Or you just may need a tune-up that reenforces your current situation in life. Wherever you are in your journey to find meaning and purpose, I encourage you to adopt a daily practice of focusing on core values like these and reflect deeply on what they mean to you. You can use this framework to add more of your own personal values like inclusion, excellence and integrity. It’s a powerful way to help you focus on and recommit to what’s most important. The result of these practices can help bring about the clarity we seek.

Jeff Strese is an organizational consultant and frequent conntributor to Family Business magazine.


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