What drives ‘YOU’ to work – Money, Mastery or Meaning?

 In Miscellaneous

We all have different motivations to work. For most of us we can’t deny it’s a need to earn money for life. For some, it’s a way to practice the skills to develop mastery. And for a lucky few it’s a part of the large mission they set for themselves where vocation meets advocation. Work remains the same. However, attitude towards the work makes a significant difference in the manner in which we engage with it.

Physiological and safety are fundamental needs of any person. They are basic requirements for survival. Everyone needs to fulfill these needs irrespective of if you’re working ‘for profit’ or ‘social cause.’ Money helps in satisfying these needs. Earning money is a necessity to fulfill the needs and desires of self as well as of family. It is a personal choice we all make about how much and how fast we should and can earn money. Thinking about money is essential and not wrong. It helps to maximize gains from one’s effort and skills they possess. In part it allows us to focus on ‘efficiency.’

But as we all know, there is a downside. A singular obsession with money leads to a ‘me first’ attitude, selfish behavior, job hopping and often burned bridges. Think about it, are you just “working for the weekend?” Are you just looking forward to the next break rather than really conquering the assignment at hand? That’s not really what life should be all about. Money also clouds objective thinking and appreciation for other’s capabilities and efforts. It also leads to select assignments or migration to countries where we can get a few dollars more. It leads to a mindset that THE most important thing is making a lot of money, and fast. Such a mindset can also lead someone to run away from assignments with demanding clients, to shy away from assignments that involve learning new skills, and anything that requires arduous work.

Study after study shows that people who see their work as an avenue to practice their skills and develop a mastery are far more engaged compared to the those who see merely a job. Jacob Bronowski mentioned in The Ascent of Man – “The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better. You see it in his science. You see it in the magnificence with which he carves and builds, the loving care, the gaiety, the effrontery. The monuments are supposed to commemorate kings and religions, heroes, dogmas, but in the end the man they commemorate is the builder.”

People who are involved in their job as an avenue to demonstrate competencies really enjoy the work. They don’t mind putting in long hours. Still, validation and recognition of the work and achievements accomplished are important.

People who see their work as part of a large mission don’t just see work as a means to an end, getting a paycheck, for them the work is meaningful and has a purpose as they are contributing to the greater good. It connects them to their reason for existence and something bigger than self. L P Jacks writes in ‘Education thru Recreation” – “A master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, education and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”

One can pursue their mission irrespective of the nature of their profession. Someone who’s on a mission of ‘creating a healthy community’ may take-up a job in the industries of medicine, or food & nutrition, or fitness and health well-being. A doctor, diet consultant, or gymnasium instructor – all the professionals can pursue the mission related to the well-being of society.

Let me sum-up this learning with a story I heard from my grandparents many times. A long time ago, a small state in the western part of India was impacted by drought. Almost two years went by without rains. Most of the water sources were drying and not enough water was left for people to pursue farming. People moved across the villages in search of work. A spiritual guru decided to build temples so it could provide work to people in the villages.

One day the guru visited a site in a nearby village. He started talking with the workers at the site. He asked the first person whom he met – “dear fellow, what are you doing here?” The person replied – “I’m breaking stones and earning a living for my family.” The guru blessed the man and moved ahead. He saw a few people engrossed in work. He went and checked with a worker and repeated the same question. The person replied – “I’m making statues. I’m a sculptor.” The guru appreciated his work and moved ahead. He saw a person performing laborious work in scorching heat with a broad smile and humming a song. The guru went to him and asked the same question that he asked the other workers. The man replied expressing gratitude to the guru – “O Guru, I’m grateful to you for providing us an opportunity to work in the construction of the temple. I’m happy to contribute in creating a place of spiritual learning, harmony and mental well-being”. The guru was quite pleased to see the man’s involvement with his purpose and asked him to join for building another temple in a nearby village.

May you find “work” that is part of your mission, provides you an opportunity to demonstrate your mastery and in the process where you can earn money. Remember, people who find a job they love, never work a day in their life!

Featured image credit- www.lifehack.org

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