Why I work

One of the reasons I started this blog was out of concern that much of what I read or hear stated about why people work is too simplistic.  It assumes we pick a single goal (generally earning money), and then do whatever we can to maximise that.  Not only do I feel this isn’t what most people want to do, but repeating it can make people more inclined to act that way.

The more that we can recognise that our goals in working are more complex, and often a balancing game between conflicting motivations, the more we can manage their career in a way that makes us happy in the long term.

So in this post, I’d like to outline my motivations for the work that I seek to do:

  • I want to feel that I am making the world a better place (taking into account both the good and harm I inevitably do).  I can do this through the work that I do (in my paid job and unpaid work), as well as by financially supporting (through tax and donations) causes that are important to me.
  • I want to feel challenged, but I also want to feel competent.
  • I want to work with people that want me to work with them, that respect me for who I am as well as what I can do for them.  And I want to be able to feel the same about them.
  • I want to feel that I am creative, doing work that I care about, that couldn’t be identically replaced by a machine or another person.
  • I want my work to make me happy and to support (and not hurt) my relationships with those I care about – for example through my work’s effect on my self-identity and the time and money I have to do things I want to.

I wonder how universal these goals are.  Do readers think that any of these motivations are generally not shared by most people?  Are there motivations that other people have, that I’m missing (e.g. competition)?

2 thoughts on “Why I work

  1. John Stepper

    Though people might relate in varying degrees, I think the motivations you’ve outlined are universal. Autonomy, mastery, purpose, connectedness. There’s plenty of research to show these are the things that appeal to us intrinsically. Interestingly, there’s also plenty of research that people find these sources of motivation in a wide range of jobs.


    Your thoughts & list definitely resonate with me. Being surround by people who care, encourage, keep me accountable & on track is another important one.


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