Nectar In a Sieve

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Years ago, I read a poem by Coleridge called “Work Without Hope”. It has a great line in it: “Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live.”  (Nectar is the life-giving drink of the gods; and a sieve is a strainer through which the liquid is drained.)

As an executive coach, organizational psychologist, business owner and mentoring expert, I participate in conversations about how to improve employee engagement – and my thoughts go back to this quote. Whether you’re working on a farm, in a factory, or to providing service, hope takes the form of meaningful work – believing that by nurturing your product (plants, widgets or services); you will produce something that will benefit the ultimate consumer. So an employee involved in activities that don’t seem to have a major purpose in life, can use the experience to focus on building skills and understanding the context with the purpose of using them for future career advancement. Over time, hope takes the form of career enhancement – believing that you will advance to positions of even more interesting challenges and ability to impact on your work environment.  The question,

As I now also focus on serving adults through Age Brilliantly, all too often I hear despair – a lack of hope for the future. Many have been forced to “retire from work too early” – being forced out of their jobs or because doing so because they grew up believing they should do so at 60-65 years. Without being productive and/or doing anything new and enjoyable, they lack hope for the future.  I’ve paraphrased the quote, substituting the word “work” with “life”: “Life without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live.”

Psychologist Viktor Frankl, creator of Logotherapy, used his experiences in Nazi concentration camp to stay alive by focusing on a ‘purpose”. His purpose was to study what was happening, psychologically, so that when he left he could share it with others. He theorized that humans are motivated by a “will to meaning” – an inner pull to find a meaning in life; therefore life can have meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.

For retirees, with no plan for the future, developing one is critical. It’s one reason Age Brilliantly was formed – to provide them with a community platform to engage with peers, experts and providers and get the information and social support needed to take charge of the rest of their lives and live better.   For the rest of us, it provides an opportunity to explore the “elongated life” (possibly to 100+) they will have and developing a road map for how they want to spend the 30-50 years ahead of them. Old assumptions of how life can be abandoned as we live longer, healthier and with greater financial resources; with the help of technology for mobility, developing relationships, and integrating learning –purpose-travel-leisure activities, you can enjoy the nectar of life throughout your adult life. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons Age Brilliantly soon will introduce a workshop called “Navigate the Transition: Building a Roadmap to 100+.”

So I leave you with two questions:

  • From an HR and career planning perspective, are we doing enough to ensure that an employee’s energy (nectar) will be appreciated and not strained out?
  • From a life perspective – are we doing enough to ensure that our lives and those of adults we know, including our parents and grandparents to appreciate the nectar of life?

Share your answers here and at Age Brilliantly.