Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash.

When my second son was born, he didn’t open his eyes.

The nurse told us it was normal; some newborns take longer to part their eyelids. Through excited and exhausted anxiety, I believed her. But by the third day, we hadn’t looked into Jaxon’s distinct green eyes. We started making appointments with specialists.

Jax is now a creative, independent, and infinitely imaginative three-year-old. It turns out he was born without eyelid muscles and has a much narrower eye opening due to Blepharophimosis, Ptosis, Epicanthus Inversus Syndrome (BPES), a rare genetic mutation that affects one in 50,000 people.

With surgeries and…

Consider the people who comprise your routines. Who do you need to notice more?

Noticing is the act of seeing someone’s uniqueness and showing an interest in their full life.

Feeling noticed is the opposite of feeling invisible, the inverse of being forgotten. When others pay attention to us and remember us, our essential lives’ hidden vividness and nuances become known.

Studies show that being seen is necessary to feel like we matter and promotes mental and emotional wellbeing, including a reduced risk for anxiety and depression. …

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash.

As people “return to work,” leaders should be ready to address a hidden issue: a meaning deficit.

Historically, every significant disruption of how we work inflicted profound distress flamed by existential crises and the search for meaning.

At the height of the second Industrial Revolution, in 1897, sociologist David Émile Durkheim published an enduring analysis of suicide. Durkheim found a central cause of acute mental distress was the loss or change of work. Not working, he found, depleted people of purpose, of having a social function and a meaningful contribution.

In 1938, as The Great Depression relented, psychologists Philip Eisenberg…

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash.

Think about the first time you realized you mattered.

What happened? How did you feel?

Chances are your moment of mattering impacted and moved you. Most likely, you felt important because of what someone else said or did.

Feeling significant is a basic human desire and a critical factor for mental, emotional, and physical well-being in life, school, and work.

Mattering is also dependent on others, and fulfilling this vital human desire is a community endeavor.

In other words, others around you know they matter because of you.

So, what is mattering? Why is mattering so important? And, how can…

Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash.

I was in the parking lot at my kids’ daycare when I got the notification. I looked down at my phone, and nausea returned.

The first word of the e-mail subject line read, “Canceled.” It was the latest in a string of messages that obliterated my false sense of stability, security, and purpose.

A big part of my work (and income) comes from sharing research through speaking to large groups. It’s not a very pandemic-resistant occupation. A few months of work was wiped out on a Friday afternoon.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck. I don’t…

Last year, in an airport restroom, I saw a man crumple a paper towel and throw it toward a trash can attached to a janitor’s cleaning cart. It bounced off the rim and dropped to the floor, right next to the janitor’s boot. The two exchanged glances and the man walked out the door, leaving the wad of paper settling on the floor.

The janitor picked up the avoidable litter as if experiencing casual disrespect was part of his routine. For many of the 24 million frontline workers who do society’s necessary work, it is.

One of society’s greatest hidden…

If you’ve read the many workplace psychology studies and whitepapers published over the past decade, you probably know that a sense of purpose in work is important.

Studies show that when people believe that their work matters, they’re four times more likely to be engaged, are more motivated, learn faster, and are more fulfilled.

But do you know how to activate purpose and connect your people to it?

If you’re unsure, you have company.

A recent survey of over 502 leaders revealed that while 79% of leaders think that connecting their people to an inspiring purpose is critical to success…

If most of your day is spent doing mundane tasks, you’re not alone.

Surveys find that almost 60 percent of the average person’s day is spent on routine details like paperwork, e-mail, informal conversations, or planning and being in meetings. For most U.S. workers who reside in wage-earning service-based occupations, that percentage is probably much higher with days often filled with repetitive, manual tasks.

If researchers’ consensus is right that you’ll work for around 90,000 hours in your lifetime, then roughly 2,250 full days will likely be spent in ordinary ways. …

Photo by Ryan McGuire.

Why Meaningful Work is Everyone’s Job

Lisa had been a janitor for a decade when I asked her to describe a time when she experienced her work as especially meaningful.

She needed just a few seconds to recall a moment, “This one has given me motivation ever since.”

It wasn’t what I was expecting.

She started, “I once worked at a sports stadium, and one time there was a woman who just vomited all over the outside of the bathroom door, and it was right where a long line of people would go in to go use the bathroom…”

As Lisa continued to detail an especially…

Graphic by Elisa Riva.

“Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning.” — Viktor Frankl

A cold April rain swept across the puddled Boston streets as Desiree Linden became the first American woman in over 30 years to win the Boston Marathon.

As she waved the American flag with a beaming smile, you’d never know she’d been moments away from quitting.

Yes, quitting.

In a post-race interview, Linden disclosed that early…

Zach Mercurio, PhD

I research and write about purpose, meaningfulness, and mattering. Let’s connect:

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