What’s Your Reason for Working?

Fundamentally speaking, have you ever considered why you work?

Let that question sit for a minute, because it’s not always an easy one to answer. Most people I’ve asked this will quickly respond with a “Well, of course, I work because…” defensive type of answer. But as the conversation gets going, they often begin to realize that they have deeper, more personal, and sometimes conflicting reasons for working.

Those reasons may be hard to discover, and even harder to admit. So I ask again – have you ever considered why you work? I have many times, and the answer is not always the same. But I try to be completely honest with myself and arrive at an answer each time.

Today’s post seeks to present what I believe are some of the fundamental reasons people choose to work. I say choose, because like all things in life, I believe that your attitude about work is a personal choice, even if you “choose” to work “because you have to.”

What are the major reasons?

  • That also happens to be my first reason why people work. When people say they work “because they have to,” it is because they see it as an unavoidable part of life. They refuse to see any other alternatives to producing income, or to view their jobs as anything but a means to an end. People that work because they have to are often unmotivated at their jobs, bitter toward others, resentful at home, and live the same day over and over again for their entire working lives.
  • Some people work to provide for others. This can be a big motivator, primarily in single-income families. There is nothing quite like knowing that you are the sole link between your family and their ability to survive in this world. Variations of this are many – for example, married couples can feel like they have an obligation to work for their spouse, while roommates can also feel a sense of responsibility toward those living with them.
  • There are many who work because they love what they do. This is the crowd that practices the “do what you love and the money will come” philosophy. They are passionate about their vocation, and can get lost in their career’s pursuits. It’s important to remind them to check in with their wallets once in a while and ensure that their passion can still pull them through.
  • Some work primarily out of fear. They work because they are scared of the alternative of not having a job they like, or any job at all. Unfortunately, with a strong recession and a high unemployment rate, this type of feeling can spread quickly through the working ranks today. It’s also why many stay with their companies through these times, even though they don’t enjoy their jobs very much.
  • People also work to fund their true passions. While their primary income may not be from a career-building position or a job they particularly like, they use the money they earn there to fund a hobby, passion, or side business that they are truly crazy about. This can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
  • Some work simply for the money. They love the idea of money, and they idea of making a lot of it even more. This group of workers can quickly forget their true motivation, as their only aspiration turns into maximizing and consistently increasing their income. They can be greedy, and lack the perspective to see when enough becomes enough.
  • Other people work to leave a legacy or for recognition and greatness. They see their work as a critical part of something they are building or a part of. Many times, they may be volunteers or non-profit workers, trying to make a difference and leave the world a better place.
  • Still others work primarily to share. They often contribute large percentages of their income to charity and causes. They feel that the money they make transcends their immediate needs, and are very passionate about those they financially support.
  • There are those who work out of boredom. These can be retirees who may have experienced the lack of stimulation that abrupt retirement brings, and seek to return to work simply to keep themselves occupied with something.
  • Finally, some people don’t know why they work, and I have a feeling this is a large percentage of the population. They work day after day without giving a second thought as to what they are doing. They are a little bit like the group that works because “they have to,” but have never really sat down to give the question a second thought.

Your Thoughts

No matter what your reasons for working, I hope that you can be honest with yourself as you read this post and ask the question of yourself.

Talk about it with your family and friends – you may be surprised as to what you learn about yourself and those around you. If you’re willing to share why you work, feel free to do so here.

I’m excited to learn about your motivations!

Photo by EDgAr H.

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8 thoughts on “What’s Your Reason for Working?

  1. People work also for getting a social recognition & associated prestige.They also work to show that they are different from those idling out.

  2. I’d say that I work for two primary reasons:

    1. I’m wired to be of service. I could not work in a for-profit company (unless it was a for-profit venture whose sole purpose was to provide wages to folks in need and the vast majority of profits were reinvested into the community. Before anyone has a fit, you can for-profit your little heart out. To each their own). So, I work because I believe I am here on this spinning blue ball to do all I can to help my brothers and sisters in this global human family; and

    2. I work because I haven’t found a way to live outside of our mainstream, cash-oriented culture. I know others have done it, but I’m not too keen on how they have gone about it. Regardless, I will always do some kind of work in the “helping” profession, but I don’t expect to always get paid for it. I will likely continue working after retirement, but I look forward to the day when I’ve found a way to not “need” to accept payment for my work.
    .-= ConsciouslyFrugal´s last post: Our Winner & Good News for All Who Entered! =-.

  3. I’m one of those who work out of fear and because of money. I’m trying to change that but its very slow going because of the economy. I do have a passion but I tend to treat it as more of a hobby (that’s where the fear comes in). I’m afraid that my hobby wont bring in enough income for me to sustain my current lifestyle, even though I’m cutting back on a lot of things.

    1. You’re in the same boat with a lot of people, my friend. The economy has definitely scared a lot of people from feeling like they have the freedom to pursue their passions.

      It’s unfortunate, and I hope the situation turns around real soon. The foundations and systems for cashing in on our passions are being laid in the meantime through what’s happening with the Internet and other areas of life!

      Best of luck to you!

  4. I’m still a student, and I study for future work. So I feel great because all of my knowledge may someday turn into something practical. Perhaps working helps u grow into an adult and enjoy the process of creating something not merely absorbing others’ theory

  5. I ran my own business for the past five years before shutting it down and getting a job as an employee. The beauty of being an employee for me was 1) greater social interaction with people (my business was not very engaging with people and I got lonely) and 2) a sense of pride. I had a LOT of pride in my business, but the stress of ensuring its success was tough and drained my pride. I take pride in doing a job well, whether or not I am recognized for it.

    1. I agree! There’s a lot of online sentiment toward self-employment and entrepreneurship, but a lot of people still love and enjoy being employed as part of a company.

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