Why Do You Work?
By Sherry Read on February 12, 2008
Have you heard it said that you should discover your passion and do all you can to create a dream job around it? Others argue that it’s not a career, it’s all about the maximizing the money. Some people say that they work to live; others that work is a manifestation of their purpose in life. Have you ever thought consciously about why you work?
Considering why you work, what you look for in your work and what you seek outside of work, can be a simple step in achieving greater satisfaction in your life. Clarifying what you want and can get from work compared to what you want and can get from other parts of your life allows you to better judge and control your level of happiness.
When people are asked why they work, the simple answer is, of course, money. Ask yourself, do you look for more than that in your job?
- Some people want power; assuming that gives them greater freedom to get or do something, or possibly, they are looking for respect. Why would you want power?
- Most of us want respect from others. The follow-on question is whose respect are you seeking, and for what?
- Travel and interacting with other cultures can be a key motivator. What part of travel or living overseas is motivating you?
- Some people are working in service to others. When you think about service, it’s useful to get more specific about the nature of the service – what kind of work and to whom?
- Do you look to your work to provide an outlet for creative expression? In what forms can you express yourself that cater to an audience, rather than to yourself?
- Work and offices provide forums for meeting people. What kind of relationships are you seeking?
- Others seek fulfillment or some form of accomplishment. Does that mean setting goals and achieving them? Does it mean motivating others to an outcome?
So again, why do you work? Reflect on your own position, look at the list above and find the one or two points that feel right. Take out a notebook, journal or personal planner, and complete the sentence, "I work because..."
In the book, "Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow", Marsha Sinetar argues "Work is a natural vehicle for self-expression because we spend most of our time in its thrall. It simply makes no sense to turn off our personality, squelch our real abilities, forget our need for stimulation and personal growth forty hours out of every week." There is much that compelling about finding your true values, working from your strengths, and accepting what follows.
Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine in the book "Fire Your Boss" present the contrarian view that you should "work to earn money and spend the rest of your life pursuing your other goals". In their model, you must look for a job that provides a large and secure income, focus on ensuring your boss's success, control your work hours and be continually fishing for other job opportunities. By working to live, you enable yourself to fill those needs identified above outside of the office with greater control.
Ask yourself again the question about "why do I work?" Now ask yourself which model you believe is the right one for you. Consciously recognize what you seek from your work and outside your work. Then ask yourself, are you making choices and taking steps consistent with those needs, and the model that is right for you. Enhanced life and work satisfaction can come from the simple step of evaluating your needs and the steps you are taking to fill them.
Pollan, Stephen M. and Mark Levine. Fire Your Boss. New York: HarperResource, 2004.
Sinetar, Marsha. Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. New York: Dell Publishing, 1987.
Copyright © 2006 by Sherry L. Read
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