Why finding meaningful work is more important than money

What motivates you to do the work that you do?  When I was talking to the Human Resources person at one of my former positions, she told me that 90% of the reason people work is because of payroll.  Indeed, I hear people saying that the first thing they are going to do when they win the lottery is quit their jobs. 

But what is more interesting than why people work is why they quit.  This is where the clues appear for what motivates people to choose work that fits.  

What I have seen from observing people who leave their positions is that a high percentage of the decisions were not related at all to the money.   How they were treated, priority changes because of family, a change of organization direction, and personal growth work which results in a new vision of one’s life are all top reasons why people want to make a change in their lives. 

Looking at the reasons people seek new opportunities, you can see that motivation is highly personal, dependent on where you are in your life and what it is that you want.  Motivation is internally driven.

The same is true of meaningfulness.  Meaningfulness is often at the root of motivation.  It is connected to values, the importance of how you want to lead your life.   And though making money is a value, it often is not the top value.

As a part of the career exploration, I produced a values assessment where participants chose and then prioritized their values.  Frequently, money was chosen for the first round but by the third and final round, it no longer was on the list.  Why is that?  

Though money is an important consideration, it is more of a flow-in, flow-out issue.  For example, what you need financially changes over time.  When push comes to shove, you can be quite surprised by what you actually need to survive. 

In circumstances where you are making big decisions, money may not be the biggest factor.

The values that you are left with at the end of any day has to do with how you feel about yourself and the world.  At the end of trying situations, I have heard people proud and resolved that they came out with their integrity intact.  And along the way when they have been the most confused, their values are what guides them to their next action. 

It is those values that are held most dear that become most meaningful.  Though our values can change over time, they are ultimately where “the buck stops.” 

While meaningfulness has everything to do with who you are and what you want, there also is another component.  Mostwork is in relation to other people, societies and the planet.  For some people, this means working directly with homeless people and for others it means leading a corporation.   The common thread is seeing themselves as a part of making a difference.

People who experience the highest amount of job satisfaction feel like they are contributing to an issue bigger than themselves.  They may want to make a difference but their desire is to contribute in meaningful ways. 

Meaningfulness also is a driving factor in hanging in there when times are tough. 

How, then, do you find the work that provides meaning in your life?  Asking yourself the following powerful questions will help illuminate what is meaningful to you:

  1. What is meaningful to me?
  2. What do I consider to be the most important concerns, the issues that I care about the most?
  3. What really matters?
  4. If I could solve one world problem, what would it be?
  5. What are my top 3 movies of all time?  What theme do they share?

This is one of the components of the Finding Work That Matters Program.  If you want to know more, check it out here