Calling and the Good Life: A Meta-Analysis and Theoretical Extension

Shoshana R. Dobrow*, Hannah Weisman, Daniel Heller, Jennifer Tosti-Kharas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


While a positive view of calling has been ubiquitous since its introduction into the literature over two decades ago, research remains unsettled about the extent to which it contributes to various aspects of the good life: an optimal way of living well via worthwhile endeavors. Further, scholars have identified two conceptual types of calling, marked by internal versus external foci; yet their differential impact on outcomes indicative of the good life, such as eudaimonic and hedonic well-being (characterized by the experience of purpose and meaning versus pleasure and happiness, respectively), is unknown. Through a meta-analysis of 201 studies, we provide the first systematic review focused on these two fundamental theoretical issues in the calling literature: how strongly related callings are to outcomes in the domains of work and life and which type of calling (internally or externally focused) more strongly predicts these outcomes, if either. We find that callings more strongly relate to outcomes indicative of the good life than recently argued. We further find that callings are more strongly linked to work than to life outcomes and to eudaimonic than to hedonic outcomes. The two types of calling converge in being associated with many similar outcomes, but they show some divergence: internally focused callings are more positively related to hedonic outcomes and less positively related to eudaimonic outcomes, relative to externally focused callings. This finding supports a view of callings as hierarchically structured, with a higher-order calling factor composed of two correlated yet distinct lower-order calling types. Integrating our meta-analytic findings with relevant literatures, we propose a theoretical model that addresses psychological and social need fulfillment through which different types of callings contribute to the good life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-550
Number of pages43
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • calling
  • career
  • meaning of work
  • meta-analysis
  • the good life
  • well-being
  • work orientation


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