I’m at a crossroads career-wise, having been offered roles in both not-for-profit and the corporate sector. The NFP will give me both job satisfaction and satisfy my need to do good for the world but the corporate role offers financial stability. From a self-care perspective do I take the money or the love?
Confused in Canberra, ACT
Confused in Canberra,
I don’t know how old you are but I can guess what life stage you are in. You have spent your twenties marching up that hill of accomplishment, maybe stopping to catch your breath and peeking down a few rabbit holes. But now you’re here! At the top. The flag is in sight, and you’re inches away from claiming it, but something is missing. Meaning. So you look sideways and backwards and sideways again in search of purpose and goodness. Because what feels like the top of the hill is really just a pit stop. Where you stop, drop and evaluate what path is Your Path leading you to Your Place in the world. You tend to stumble across this checkpoint in your early thirties (or late twenties if you’re lucky) but never fear, Confused in Canberra. Abraham Maslow and I are the compass here to guide you.
See, the hill you’ve been climbing isn’t actually a hill. It’s a pyramid. And in 1943, Abraham Maslow defined this pyramid in a paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation”. It was published in the Psychological Review and the pyramid was called ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’. Since then, it’s stayed put (as pyramids tend to do). And it goes a little something like this. First, there are Basic Needs which include food, shelter and water. Once you have those, you can climb a little higher to achieve Psychological Needs like belongingness (friends/love) and esteem (feeling accomplished/good about yourself). This is where you are, Confused in Canberra, but what felt like the top of the pyramid is really only halfway. And this is where things get good. The top of this pyramid is Self-Actualisation where one achieves their full potential (creative needs/purpose etc etc). It’s real good up there because the terrain is real tough to climb and not everyone reaches the peak. In fact, not everyone sees this part of the pyramid! They are busy achieving their Basic Needs or Psychological Needs or Too Busy sipping on martinis half way up to notice. But you clearly do. So let’s take these job offers and climb.
The decision you have is both simple and complex. You must go where your heart desires but do so without losing those basic needs you spent a decade fighting for. Because if you lose the first two thirds of the pyramid, it collapses and so do you. So let’s start with the money part. As my friend likes to say, “It’s not about the money! (But it’s about the money!)”. Because we need money to function properly in this world. However, needing and wanting are two very different things. Money does buy you happiness, up to a point. A recent study conducted through a Gallup World Poll of 1.7 million people worldwide showed happiness increases with higher salaries, up until a certain pay cheque. That pay cheque is $95,000 for ‘life evaluation’ and $60-75,000 for ‘emotional wellbeing’. Obviously, wealthier countries with higher living costs scale slightly higher and you should use it as a guide, but really, we don’t get much happier past the $75K mark. So to chase something for the money – and solely for the money – after these figures would be, well, silly. Unless an annual escapade to Europe fulfills self-actualisation. Which it doesn’t.
If you are past the point of money increasing your happiness, Confused in Canberra, don’t choose the money. Choose love. However, don’t assume the NFP job is the Love Path. The Love Path is the path where you find meaning in what You Do, not the meaning of your title or the good work of your employer. Because the most fulfilling and most successful work you will ever do will be driven by intrinsic motivators, not extrinsic motivators. Those intrinsic motivators are autonomy (the urge to direct our own lives), mastery (the desire to get better and better at something) and purpose (to service something greater than ourselves). I will probably dedicate an entire newsletter to these three words some day, but for now, watch Daniel Pink’s TED Talk or read his book, Drive. Because through his research, he has defined the new intrinsic motivators people should navigate their careers with. These motivators, Pink says, are “the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, or because they’re part of something important… This is not a feeling. It is not a philosophy. It is a true fact.” Studies prove autonomy, mastery and purpose provide better career satisfaction than any bonus or pay rise. Studies also prove money as a motivator for creative work results in worse work. So don’t choose money or love to navigate your crossroad. Find the route to autonomy, mastery and purpose. You may search a little longer, but you will stumble upon the right track.
Some Related Reads To Get You Started
TED TALK | THE PUZZLE OF MOTIVATION
Daniel Pink explains why you should value intrinsic motivators over extrinsic motivators – and why autonomy, mastery and purpose are the new framework to navigate your career.