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In Dan Ariely’s talk “What makes us feel good about our work?”, Ariely describes a set of experiments that show that people are motivated when their work has progress and purpose. 

The importance of progress resonated with my experiences as a student. As a student, I enjoy work that helps me grow as a person through new ideas and skills. For example, I liked my development economics class because it challenged my previous ideas about international development. I learned about the philosophy of development economics and did a research project that showed me the level of thoroughness that economics research involves. On a micro level, I feel motivated by readings and problem sets because I can see the continual progress as I read another chapter or do another problem. 

My experience as a DukeEngage intern also reflects the ideas in Dan Ariely’s talk. I’m interning at Saath, a non-profit based in Ahmedabad, India with the goal of empowering underprivileged communities. I work on housing policy and Saath’s response to the COVID-19 lockdown. I feel good about the work because I can see my progress as I move forward on projects and develop new skills. There is also a sense of purpose because I know that my work will contribute to Saath’s efforts. For example, I wrote a report on responses to a survey about the effect of the lockdown that will be used to inform Saath’s decisions and incorporated into Saath’s impact report. This work felt meaningful because of the continual progress and the knowledge that this work was helping Saath serve underprivileged communities.