3 ways to find a meaningful job, or find purpose in the job you already have

Learn how to redesign your job for maximum reward.

AARON HURST: There's a lot of talk about purpose: What is your purpose as an individual? And, really, it puts a lot of pressure on us to figure out what is our purpose, a sort of grandiose idea. And it's scary to enter that.

What we've found, actually, in studying individual purpose is that it's much simpler than that, especially as you get started on that journey. And I just want to share with you one question for you to really reflect on to help you think about how to make purpose more accessible to you. What we've seen in our research is that we're wired to find meaning in different ways at work. We don't all get a sense of purpose from the same things. And that doesn't mean different causes. It actually has to do with the elevation of meaning in your work. So let me explain what that means.

For about a third of the population, they get the most meaning at work when they can directly see their work impacting other people. They need to have that visceral sense that their work actually made an impact in someone's life. No matter what the impact is, if they don't see that visceral connection, they don't feel a sense of purpose. Think of a doctor, right? A doctor sees patient after patient. If they didn't get a sense of meaning from each patient, that job wouldn't be fulfilling. It wouldn't be one that they would find purpose in most likely. I think of myself. I actually asked my doctor once, you know, "How the hell do you listen to person after person come in with the same issue after the same issue? Don't you just want to be like, look, I've already seen this one before. Go see another doctor. I've already treated this issue." And he said, "No, actually, I see each person as like a unique opportunity to make an impact." So for about a third of people, that is the primary lens for thinking about impact. And you don't have to be a doctor to do that. There's a lot of ways for that to show up. It could be your co-workers. It could be customers. It could be clients. There's a lot of ways to think about how to make that direct impact.

We then have about a third of the workforce who gain much more meaning from working at an organizational level. They say, it's great to help people, but, ultimately, I want to build a more sustainable impact by helping build teams, to build organizations, to build institutions that can make a longer, sustained impact on the world. And when I see, you know, helping a given patient, you know, that's meaningful, but I'd rather help 1,000 doctors serve a million patients and be part of that equation, and that's what's really going to get me fired up. Whereas a person at that individual side might be like, "That that sounds like bureaucracy. Why would you want to be in medicine and be a hospital administrator? That sounds like torture." But to the person who's driven by that organizational change, that is exactly where they need to get that meaning. For people who really get a lot of meaning from that organizational team level, there's so many ways to do that. But at the core, it's about building teams, building organizations. And you can do that in any industry. You can do it as an athlete. You can do it as a doctor. You can do that, you know, inside a startup. You can do it inside a large company. You can do it in government. There's so many ways to be part of taking the few and turning them into the many.

The final elevation when it comes to purpose is what we call at a societal level. Some people say it's great to help a patient, they definitely need it. It's great to build hospitals, and we definitely need hospitals. But at the end of the day, if we can't reduce the cost of health care, if we can't address cancer, if we can't address some of the systemic issues, are we really moving the needle? I need to see -- even if it's in a very small way -- I need to see that my work rolls up to something bigger than any one person or organization. And this doesn't have to be about solving climate change or addressing world hunger, it could just be about bringing the latest trends in your industry into your organization or helping to advance trends in your industry. It can be about things that are simply connecting what you're doing to something bigger than any one person or organization. And for this person, which is, again, about a third of the workforce, they need to see their work that way.

What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work and start to think about, OK, I'm an organization-level person. I'm in this job. How do I optimize around that? And as I reflect on my work, how do I look for examples of how I'm making that impact? Whereas the person who is individually driven might be doing the same job, but looking for different signals and appreciating and having gratitude for different things. And that's not to say also that purpose is hierarchical. What we found is that there are people who start their career at a societal, individual, or organizational level, and they generally stay in that level. It's not a question of going from individual, to org, to society; it's not a graduation process. That's actually how we're wired. Where we find meaning actually ties back to the patterns that we see in the world, how our brain works, the level of intimacy and connection that we want with people based on our profile and a lot of other variables that actually are why we gain meaning from one thing, where someone else doesn't. So I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and really just reflect on what elevation do you find the most purpose at? I'm sure you find meaning at some level on all three levels, but where do you find the most meaning? Redesign your identity and your job around that.

  • Broaching the question "What is my purpose?" is daunting – it's a grandiose idea, but research can make it a little more approachable if work is where you find your meaning. It turns out you can redesign your job to have maximum purpose.
  • There are 3 ways people find meaning at work, what Aaron Hurst calls the three elevations of impact. About a third of the population finds meaning at an individual level, from seeing the direct impact of their work on other people. Another third of people find their purpose at an organizational level. And the last third of people find meaning at a social level.
  • "What's interesting about these three elevations of impact is they enable us to find meaning in any job if we approach it the right way. And it shows how accessible purpose can be when we take responsibility for it in our work," says Hurst.

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession

The symbol for love is the heart, but the brain may be more accurate.

  • How love makes us feel can only be defined on an individual basis, but what it does to the body, specifically the brain, is now less abstract thanks to science.
  • One of the problems with early-stage attraction, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, is that it activates parts of the brain that are linked to drive, craving, obsession, and motivation, while other regions that deal with decision-making shut down.
  • Dr. Fisher, professor Ted Fischer, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz explain the different types of love, explore the neuroscience of love and attraction, and share tips for sustaining relationships that are healthy and mutually beneficial.

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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There never was a male fertility crisis

A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.

Sex & Relationships
  • A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
  • The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
  • The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
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