Finding Meaning at Work, Even When Your Job Is Dull

by Morten Hansen and Dacher Keltner

Do you experience meaning at work—or just emptiness?

In the United States, people spend on average 35–40 hours working every week. That’s some 80,000 hours during a career—more time than you will probably spend with your kids. Beyond the paycheck, what does work give you? Few questions could be more important. It’s sad to walk through life and experience work as an empty, dreadful chore—sapping energy out of your body and soul. Yet many employees do, as evidenced by one large-scale study showing that only 31% of employees were engaged.

Work can, however, provide an array of meaningful experiences, even though many employees don’t enjoy those in ...

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