top of page
  • Writer's pictureNeta Vizel

When regular meets remarkable: How to generate AWE out of our routine work?

Photo Credit: Niamh Shaw, Ramon Crater, Israel, 2018. D-Mars first analog mission with Jacky Fay.
Photo Credit: Niamh Shaw, Ramon Crater, Israel, 2018. D-Mars first analog mission with Jacky Fay.

It started with a message from my friend, Prof. Reut Livne-Tarandach, who sent me a link to a study conducted by Sheprow & Harrison (2022)

This study is qualitative research on the mechanism of generating self-narratives of meaning and significance as part of Mars simulations work environment (MDRS- Utah desert).

At this moment I already experiences AWE and that even before I read one word😊


Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration produced by that which is grand, sublime, or extremely powerful. When awe is experienced in the work context, it can prompt self-referential sensemaking about what these experiences mean for the work individuals do and who they are.


The study presents a process theory explaining how individuals craft narrative anchors of awe and meaning from the raw materials of their daily work experiences and then draw on these anchors to incorporate an enduring sense of meaning into their summary narratives of work and their self-narratives.


Meaning at work is important and one of the most potent motivator engines. research shows (McKenzie, 2022) that when colleagues find their work to be meaningful, their performance improves by 33 percent, they are 75 percent more committed to their organization, and are 49 percent less likely to leave.

But how can we generate this sense of awe and meaning in our day to day working routine?

In a nutshell, in order to break our boundaries, we must first become experts in what's inside the boundaries;

Creativity and innovation out of professionalism, proactivity out of severity, and awe moments out of routine.


Sheprow & Harrison's (2022) study, brought me back to my days at the analog mission of D-Mars, which took place at the Ramon Crater in the Israeli Negev desert when I acted as the director of behavioral sciences.

Working on a Mars simulation doesn’t involve only glamorous, exciting work. It involves long hours of routine daily activity to keep up with essential functions of the habitat, such as cleaning and waste removal. Engagement in these monotonous, routine tasks is a prerequisite for a crew’s ability to focus on more in-depth science and technology goals: if they cannot keep the Hab (i.e. simulation habitat) functioning, they cannot conduct more sophisticated projects at the Hab.


The study found that narratives of routine work are the background for atypical events to stand out. They call it “working or imagining beyond the boundaries of the routine”.

This approach gives rise to an emotional climax narrated as experiencing awe. It is the essence of generating our sense of meaning at our work.

A sense of meaning at work can be experienced both when…

●     You venture farther outside the habitat to a place you haven’t seen before,

●     You engage in a risky experiment like climbing a hill while wearing a spacesuit,

●     You managed to grow lettuce at the middle of the desert

Or when…

●     Attempting to solve a critical complex cyber security problem protecting kids online,

●     Persuading the R&D team to add the feature you believe will promote the client,

●     Leading your first well-prepared team meeting as a new manager

●     Helping your colleague with a personal problem

●     Traveling on a special business trip abroad when your routine is working in one office.


Interestingly enough, it seems that the best way to generate a sense of meaning out of our awe moment is by framing it as part of a summary; end-of-day/project summary makes us stop for a second and see our experiences from a broader, more abstract perspective;

  • How was my day?

  • What made me feel good?

  • What excited me?

  • What made my work meaningful and significant to me?

  • What ignited my imagination or inspired me?

Only at the end of the day can we realize we may have done lots of hard, annoying tasks, but in the end, these very tasks also contributed to us getting closer to reaching an important purpose of reaching a higher destination, helping someone’s well being, gaining a sense of belonging or taking a small part in changing the world.

Reading this study and writing my own insights out of it provided me with AWE, especially in these difficult days and towards my travel to lecture at the International Space University.

I encourage you to ask yourself those questions at the end of day / week / project and reveal the power of AWE in your sense of meaning and fulfilment.

Let me know how it went.


Picture Credit: Niamh Shaw, PhD , Ramon Crater, Negev desert, Israel, 2018. D-MARS, Desert Mars Analog Ramon Station  first analog mission with our Ramonaut @Jacky Fay.

7 views0 comments


bottom of page