Why Do You Work?
We’re closing in on the end of the year, and that’s always a stressful time at work.
The pressure’s dialed up on those projects or deals with a yearend deadline.
You’re writing up evaluations of others and worrying about how you’ll fare in the evaluation process yourself.
Maybe you’re struggling to negotiate for next year’s budget and headcount.
At the same time, you’re probably thinking about what else you need to do to position yourself for pay and promotion, and being extra cautious not to make any mistakes that might ruin an otherwise solid year.
On top of that, there’s what’s happening on the home front as the holiday season nears.
Why are you doing this?
It’s times like these when we feel the daily work pressures and tensions the most. Worse yet, we get sucked into the hamster wheel of “do-do-do” to simply get things done.
Being in that mode makes it hard to remember why we’re doing this work in the first place.
This makes it the perfect time to step back from the craziness of the season and carve out the time and space to take a broader view of things.
In particular, to remind yourself of why you choose to do the work you are doing.
It’s not “just” the money
This came up last week at a series of workshops I facilitated in London, Leeds and Manchester. They were for “graduates” of a leadership and career development course my partner and I previously led.
As we discussed their successes and lessons learned from the course, a major theme was on the value of taking time to step back from the day job to reflect.
One of the participants brought up the point that we get so busy, we forget why we work. Of course we need to earn a living. But for most, if not all of us, there’s more to it than “just” the money.
Each of us has a different mix of what we want out of our work. I’ve heard a range of other benefits people seek, including the:
- Camaraderie of being part of a team
- Opportunity to use your best strengths on a daily basis
- Chance to mentor and help younger people learn and grow
- Sense of belonging to a larger organization with a broader mission
- Feeling of accomplishment from solving complex problems for clients
- Contribution to a broader effort that you couldn’t otherwise achieve on your own
- Ability to lead others toward a common goal
- Opportunity to be part of the “buzz” at the forefront of your chosen field
- Satisfaction of doing meaningful work and doing it to an excellent standard
It’s up to you to get what you need
She then went on to say that it’s our own responsibility to ask ourselves, “Am I getting those benefits I want from work?” And then to make sure we are.
She’s right. The company cuts the check (or rather, makes the direct deposit), but the rest – camaraderie, meaning, problem solving and so forth – are within our sphere of influence.
Simply remembering “what you came here for” can jog us out of the grind of “do-do-do” mode, and into the realm of gratitude for what we have at work and taking action to get what we need.
On the action-taking front, what would be refreshing and positive for you?
Is there an assignment you could ask for that puts your best strengths to work and where you could make a unique contribution?
Could you invite a couple of colleagues to join you for lunch, even if it’s just in the company cafeteria (or canteen)?
How about scheduling a coffee with that new junior team member to get to know them and start them off on the right track?
Since very few of us are mind readers, it’s up to you to make sure you’re getting what you need.
You owe it to yourself (and the world)
When you step back, you can remind yourself of those important reasons for working which make it much more rewarding than working just for the pay.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for pay and being paid for the value you bring. However, beyond a modest threshold, money does not make us happy. And typically, our pay is not in our control.
Making the conscious choice to engage with and appreciate all the facets of your work – and to remember why you do it – helps you to bring your very best self to the job. That’s when you can achieve the greatest success while also enjoying the process.
And that’s “a good thing” for you, your family, your team, your organization and the world.
So, why do you work? What are you seeking beyond the money? And how will you make sure you’re getting that?
Let me know – share your thoughts in the comments below.
In regards to your question “why do you work?”
I used to work, because I genuinely enjoyed what I did – the thought process, the various ways of accomplishing a task – I work in news, sports and entertainment – I enjoyed the diversity of the work itself, the constant change and yet an element of structure. Unfortunately, I have found my self in a bit of a slow down and so I’ve current taken a job – simply to get my time in and to keep the bills paid, the reasons in which I’ve found the slow down aren’t really a “natural” part of the work as it sometimes can be, but a steady effort of some “group mobbing” so it’s a bit of a bummer. I’m staying positive though. So “why do I work?” because I’ve been told if you do what you love the money will follow. I also enjoy the team effort (when it’s actually a team and not infighting) and the unity of all the working parts that make something happen. So, I am grateful for the time I’ve had and the blessings that have come along and can only hope the situation will correct itself.
Thank you for sharing your answers to “why do I work”. It’s wonderful that you know what “great” looks like, having had that previous experience. And bravo for staying positive and making the most of where you are now. Could this also be a time to shift your creative energies toward new areas of enjoyment beyond the “day job” while you build up your resources for your next big move?
I am definitely in the “work for a paycheck ” mode, trying to earn money to pay my bills and hopefully have some extra for fun stuff. Currently waiting on the result from my review (which was 2 months ago) and hoping it will be positive. I like my company, my boss and what I do. For the most part I get to utilize my strength, which is superb attention to detail. I also am good at and enjoy problem solving (I’ve always loved a good mystery). My situation is not dire, but I would love to get out of the mindset of worrying about my salary being enough to meet expenses.