How Important is Meaningful Work?

This is a fast and interesting read on behavioral psychology. Dan Ariely’s life experiences and his reasoning for his research, which is based on how people think and what makes them do things the way they do, are the main topics of his books. Here is what I got out of the book.

Chapter 2 – Meaningful Work

Let’s say your boss tells you to complete a project (perhaps a powerpoint presentation). After you worked on it long and hard, you hand it to your boss and he tells you, “Good job, but we won’t be using it,” and then proceeds to hand you a check (sure, it can be a big check and as the book’s example used – they also got someone else to do laundry for the individual).

How would you feel?

The next time your boss hands you a project, you may not work on it as hard because you found that your work has no meaning and no one out there will be able to see the work that you put into it. Even though you get paid, the self internal drive to care about the work that you is decreased tremendously because you found that your work doesn’t mean anything.

However, if you were put into a situation where you have meaning in your work (perhaps you have some mission, philosophy, vision and/or goal), then chances are, you will work on it longer.

If you have meaning in your work AND you already have an internal drive – motivation – to do your work, then the work output increases at a much higher rate.

One topic Ariely discussed is a research project on rats. The results showed us that we like to EARN our award and not merely be given an award. We like to be challenged, we like to figure out puzzles, and we like to see our results at the end.