Working: Have to or Want to?

I recently came across a New York Times article called “Rethinking Work” that left me thinking, and rethinking, a lot of things.

As the article alludes, the notion that we as human beings work solely to make money has been around since the days of Adam Smith, who penned in his “The Wealth of Nations” that “It is the interest of every man to live as much at ease as he can.”

From these words came the idea that it is best to routinize at automate work, so that we virtually don’t have to work, as work is defined. What was once work now has a new meaning, and therefore it should come as no surprise that, according to a recent Gallup poll, almost 90 percent of workers were either “not engaged” with or “actively disengaged” from their jobs. How can one truly be engaged when their work no longer requires effort, when it is no longer a challenge?

While that’s not to say we don’t all dream of a life living in yoga pants and eating bowls of Reese’s Puffs eight hours a day while watching Real Housewives marathons (wait, is that just me?), I find it hard to imagine that most of us don’t want to have a purpose. And, while sitting at a desk all day is not for everyone, that is not the definition of work. Work, or a job, can take a variety of forms (not just corporate), which I think we all too often forget.

It’s certainly easy to fall into the “Adam Smith trap” where we search for jobs that make us the most so we can afford all of life’s luxuries – but at what sacrifice? Sure, you can afford that palatial beach house, but how much joy will it really provide you if you’re stuck there dreading having to return to work the following week?

As Barry Schwartz notes in his NYT article, “Money does not tap into the essence of human motivation so much as transform it. When money is made the measure of all things, it becomes the measure of all things.”

So, while it is important to factor in money when considering work (no one wants to feel completely strapped or worried about finances all the time), it cannot be the sole factor in deciding on a job (or a career). One must consider the job holistically. Do you feel passionate and driven by the work you will be doing? Do you believe in the company you are working for? Do you believe in the product you are selling? Do you feel challenged, and that there are opportunities for growth and development?


Without these non-salary related questions factored into your job decision, you are likely to end up trapped in a place where you, like so many Gallup poll-ers, feel unsatisfied and disengaged. You’ll lose morale and likely hinder your job performance.

I should note, too, that every individual is likely to have different answers to these questions, as we are all motivated by different things. Heck, that’s what makes the world go round! So, while I am fascinated by the world of media, others are passionate about science or real estate or retail – anything and everything!

I’ll end with a profound statement by Schwartz in which he stated that “Work that is adequately compensated is an important social good. But so is work that is worth doing. Half of our waking lives is a terrible thing to waste.”

Don’t waste half of your waking life. Honor your passions, find your challenge and enjoy what you do.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s