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The Purpose of Work

Humans have been working since the beginning of time. But the type of work has evolved throughout generations.

Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who worked by hunting for food. They lived in groups and worked together. Thankfully, we no longer have to carry our hunting tools and roam around the forest. We can work from our comfortable home today.

The type of work has changed, sure. But the purpose of work has remained (almost) the same.

For survival.

We work to put food on the table and provide for our family. Our primary purpose is to fulfill our basic needs — food, clothes, and shelter. After that, it changes to other things like status, entertainment, security, freedom, etc.

That is how we can generalize the purpose of working. Now, let’s talk about your reason for working.

Why do you work (or want to work)?

Besides the basic needs we discussed, your answer could be different, like:

  • To make money
  • To achieve freedom
  • To gain social status

The most common answer, I believe, is the first one — to make money.

Money has become a necessity for survival. If you don’t work, you don’t make money. And if you don’t make money, surviving in the 21st-century world will be challenging.

What if you made a lot of money?

Working for money seems like the correct answer for many of us. But is that all?

But what if you made all the money you wanted? Assume that you have made the amount of money of your dreams. You are a billionaire. Congratulations.

Now what?

You buy your dream house and the fanciest car. You travel to the finest places in the world. Everything you had imagined you would do, you have done it.

Now what?

Think about it for a second.

You can enjoy life for a few months, maybe a few years. Then, everything becomes boring because there isn’t anything left to do or buy. You have it all.

Ultimately, you have to come back to live your everyday life. You can’t party 365 days a year. Driving fancy cars will be fun for the first few weeks or months. Then, you begin to think, “Well, what’s new?”

What do the wealthiest people on earth do every day? Think of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and all those big names. Do they party and go on vacations all the time? Do they drive their Lamborghini and Ferraris all day?

Of course not.

Do you know what they do every day?

They go to work.

What is their purpose for working? Do you think it is to make money?

They have all the money in the world. They can just sit back and enjoy life with the money they have.

So, why do they work?

The true purpose of work

The purpose of work is to live a meaningful life. It is to do something for others and the world beyond your personal needs. It is to make a difference.

Further, we work to make ourselves useful in everyday life. You cannot relax on your couch and watch Netflix all the time. It gets boring, and you start feeling useless.

You have some skills that you would like to use. You want to become the best version of yourself by doing something meaningful in life. Everyone does.

So what makes you feel useful? What do you enjoy doing?

That is your true purpose of working.

People in their 70s and 80s cannot do much physically. Yet they still engage in activities like reading, gardening, writing, painting, connecting with friends and family, etc. They do it because they want to feel useful.

Another reason to work is to connect with people. Humans are social animals. We need to build relationships with others. It makes us happy and fulfilled. Research shows that the primary source of happiness for most is the quality of relationships they have with others. It’s not money, fame, or status.

What’s your purpose?

If you ask the poor and middle class why they work, the answer is probably money. I don’t blame them. Money is the first goal in everyone’s mind.

But what is beyond money is the true purpose of work. And ironically, if you focus on your true purpose, you make money as an outcome.

Now tell me: What is your purpose of work?

I’m guessing it is not just money anymore.

If you are having difficulty figuring out your purpose, let me help you. Make a list of things you would like to do if you didn’t have to work for money. Assume you have all the money you need. What would you be doing?

I know what the list might include — traveling, sleeping, shopping, relaxing, and all the fun stuff.

Keep adding more to the list. Aim for 100 things. Now, you will have to think after writing about 20 items. Then, you’ll add something like investing, charity, working on my dream (the things you always wanted to do but didn’t because they didn’t make money), etc.

You can truly understand your purpose when you eliminate the need for money.

Even if your goal is to travel the world, what will you do after doing it all? You have gone to all the places you dreamt of. Now what?

Travel more? Okay. Then what?

Ultimately, you must come up with something you are willing to do every day. As I said previously, even billionaires and the wealthiest people work on their passion daily.

So…What’s your purpose?