Time, Money, or Purpose: What Motivates You in a Job?

Work is work. It always will be. Even jobs that let you bring your dog to work or have unlimited ice cream eventually lose their appeal, because jobs still require work. Work requires performance. Performance hinges upon motivation. Motivation changes based on the person, on the day, on the culture, on the company. 

 So what’s the secret to finding, keeping, and staying motivated in a job? How do you keep from getting antsy for change? How do you decide when to look and where to look for what’s next?

It’s Not ALL About Passion

Sometimes you hear some inspirational speaker tell you that you should pursue what you’re passionate about. Usually this speaker made a million dollars somehow and thinks you should as well. While quitting your passionless job and grabbing life by the horns sounds like an inspirational concept, it’s not necessarily helpful if it doesn’t make paying your bills possible. If your passion is poetry, for instance, you should consider not listening to that speaker’s advice.

It’s Mostly About What Motivates You

There's a difference between what you’re passionate about and what motivates you. Someone may be passionate about poetry, but they’re motivated by connecting with people. This is why the “passion” conversation in job searches is so tricky. Not a lot of people would say they’re “passionate” about insurance subrogation. Not many would define their role as an actuary or as a garbage collector as something fueled by passion, and yet there’s definitely motivation to do the work.

So how do you decide what kind of job is right for you to keep? What's the right job to pursue? How do you know if it’s time to move on from the job you're at? It really comes down to one simple question.

Time, Money, or Purpose?

What motivates you? Of these three options, which one provides you with the most sense of satisfaction when you consider the job you’re willing to do?

Are you motivated by time?

If you’re motivated by time, this means that you can put up with a lot of negative things at work in order to get to your personal life. It means that you don’t worry too much about what you're doing because you only do it so that you can get to the things that matter to you. You can tolerate work because it gives you the chance to clock out and get to living life. You aren’t looking for a job that fills some deeply personal sense of calling. You’re looking for a job that lets you have your evenings and weekends…to be with your friends or family…to let you enjoy your pastimes. You're looking for a job that gives you time to live your life.

People motivated by time often say things like, "I don't need a lot." when it comes to a job.

Are you motivated by money?

We’ve all known people who have jobs that they don’t really care about, but they stick with them because of the money. Sometimes people who are motivated by money just know how to make money, and it seems that every decision they make benefits them somehow. Many times, people who are motivated by money will work long hours doing work that may seem thankless or meaningless because it gives them the chance to meet their goals, to provide for their families, to be generous, to live comfortably. Being motivated by money is not the same as being motivated by greed. It simply means that they can do work that others may not be motivated to do and put in hours that others may not be willing to put in if it means meeting particular goals.

Are you motivated by purpose?

People who are motivated by purpose will spend a lot of their time contributing to causes that matter to them. They aren't worried about the paycheck, they're concerned about their cause. They believe that money and time will work themselves out as long as they stay committed to the cause in front of them. These people will work late into the night for little pay. In other words, they’ll sacrifice time and money to fulfill the purpose of their job. They'll also go out of their way to help other people catch the vision of their cause.

It’s important to realize that none of these motivations are right or wrong. They’re just different. Someone motivated by time will approach a job differently than someone motivated by purpose or money. So as you consider what you’re doing with your life, and what you think you should be doing, ask yourself: Am I motivated by time, money, or purpose?

Some of your dissatisfaction in your current job may be because you haven’t had a good answer to the question of what motivates you. As you discover your own motivations, you’ll be able to identify the right kinds of roles and companies you should be looking for. And sometimes, when you discover your motivators, you are much more content to stay right where you are.

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