Today I write about a loaded question — Why do we work? Many would answer with the response, because I have to. But, is that really why we get up and travel to a place to do the same thing most days? I beg to differ. I think it is more than that we have to. Let me expound.
While in college I learned of a hierarchy that I believe can help explain why we work. It is pictured above as a reference tool for this blog. It is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
At the root of our needs is the need for food etcetera; basic needs that sustain our life and give us the ability to survive. Without a roof over our heads, and the ability to provide for our basic needs, our future would be nullified and our existence void. Most all of us work to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Yet, I think for many there are other reasons as well. Let us look at the next level on the scale.
The second level is safety. Our jobs help us know our future is safe. Some stay at the same job for years and risk less. In addition, others move and venture into new realms without such fears. Jobs help us feel that our future is safer than if we did not have a career path. We feel safer knowing that we are making an income and are able to provide not only for our day to day lives but for other goals such as vacations. In addition our health can be paid for in some ways. With a job often comes the security of insurance and dental plans. Safety in knowing that we are able to be secure in our lives is important. Yes, it is the money that pays for those things. But, in addition it is the knowing that the help is there when we need it that aids in our feeling safe.
The third level is about belonging. I have had jobs where I felt like I belonged and others where I did not. Yet, somehow I felt as if by going to either place I belonged to the united front we call workers. Being a worker allows you to be able to say things like I am a teacher, or I am a truck driver. For me, I felt lost when my life changed and I was unable to work. I felt a loss of my sense of identity. I was no longer able to define myself by the career path I had chosen. I had to look deeper and see who I was without the job. Yet, in addition to that I missed being a part of the day to day life I had with those I worked with and for. That work family I had known for over twenty years was suddenly gone and it was if I had gone through a drastic change. Belonging is important to many of us. I feel it is another reason we work.
At the fourth level of the hierarchy is esteem. As we work many of us attempt to do our best as to receive recognition. To be respected by others through comments such as, “Nice job!” lifts our spirits and helps us to see that we are on the right path. At times our self esteem relies on these simple pats on the back. Self confidence boosts our self image and helps us desire to continue to do a good job. Pay raises, trophies, prize incentives, and promotions help as well. I myself enjoy working and hearing compliments but more than that I like knowing that I can save for trips and adventures I enjoy. I also like knowing I can save for retirement one day. But, I guess that goes back to the safety issue we spoke of in the last paragraph.
The top level of the hierarchy has to do with creativity, problem solving, and more. I must admit that I am a creative problem solver to the hilt. I love a good challenge. I live for them. For example, as a teacher I would look at each student like a doctor might. They had personality traits that ranged from shy to excitable, and strengths and weaknesses that made them all unique. My job was to not only teach them but to figure out how to help them advance their skill set to be able to become who they wanted to be. I loved to read about brain research and strategies to reach the kids. I miss that. Morality came into play as well. I had varying moral standards than others. That is okay, until when the morals of where you work are so varied that you don’t feel comfortable anymore. But I digress. Do you work in a place where your creative side is exposed? Do you like that? Perhaps you work where you do as to allow that creative side to come out. Perhaps that being able to create helps you get compliments and awards. I used to get grants for my creative ideas. Have you?
As a teacher my job was to prepare youth for the workforce. Yet, the focus seemed to be so much on content they might need to be successful but not on the whys we adults work. Looking at the hierarchy might just help us lead our young people into understanding the complex needs of our lives. Our jobs should help satisfy those needs if we are to be successful in keeping them. So, why do you work? I hope it is for more than just money. 🙂
P.S. I need to sign off as my parrot is trying to help me type. LOL – She is a real helper! She keeps on highlighting things etc. I better go before she deletes it all. HUGZ2all