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Book explores the meaning of work

Nancy Weil | June 7, 2010
A new book aims to help employees find, and maintain, purpose in their jobs, no matter what those are

Figuring out how employees derive meaning from their work can be equally challenging (that's what the checklists, questionnaires and other tools of the book help with). As Wendy said: "It's sort of easy to assume that if you're president of the United States you've got a meaningful job, but if you're cleaning toilets you can't possibly have a meaningful job."

For some people, finding meaning in work comes with a good match of their work to their skills and interests. But that's not always possible in the sort of economic climate we're now in, even with upticks that suggest the recession is waning. "Different things work for different people on that score. For some, it's going after achievement -- how do I compete with myself to turn out more widgets than the next person -- for others, it's how do I connect with the people around me, for others it's personal learning. For some, it's how do I connect what I'm doing to the larger problems in the world."

Ultimately, it also may be understanding that finding meaning in our endeavors is as much a part of our human makeup as the survival mode or the flight-or-flight responses that kick in when we are frightened or in danger and that many employees have been coping with during the long months of the recession. "Humans have a unique ability to reflect on our own experiences," Wendy said. "It's not something that any other animal can do. We are by definition meaning-makers and make sense out of our lives. We are able to uniquely apply that to how we work."


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