Why Do We Work? Why Do We Start Businesses?

Why do we work?   There are many reasons and some psychologists have used Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to explain why we work.  

Hierarchy - Maslow

Hierarchy – Maslow

The basic needs, the physiological needs and safety needs, are at the bottom or the pyramid.  We work for food, safe housing, medical care, and security.  In the middle are our needs for belonging, love, self-identity, and self-esteem.  We may not expect to find love in the work force, but we would like respect in addition to feeling that our jobs match our self-identities and enhance our self- esteem.  The top level needs are for growth and not survival and might include beauty, justice, self-actualization, and knowledge.  According to Maslow we must have the lower level needs met before we can move upward to the higher needs.

 During the Agricultural Age and Industrial Age, most people worked to fulfill their basic needs.  Work was to pay the bills not to give you identity or self-esteem.  With the Information or Postindustrial era, the concept of work changed and we expected our jobs and careers to meet our higher level needs for belonging, self-esteem, and self-identity and maybe knowledge and self-actualization.  Only those who lacked an education worked for the basic needs.

 The Recession that began in 2008 changed things again.  People who once had positions that met their middle and upper level needs now find themselves unhappily working to secure the basics.  But the genie will not go back into the bottle.  Most of us want our work to be more than supplying our basic needs.  There were and are an abundance of books on how to get ahead in the workplace and if that  was not working out, there are the books that tell us how to escape from corporate America and start making money by being who you really are.  In other words, create a business based on something you feel passionate about.

I teach Self-Assessment and Career Planning as a college course and write resumes.  My students and clients primarily want their careers to meet all their needs and provide them with financial security.  Oops the long-term financial security is no longer part of the social contract.  I also use the Life First – Work Second approach to career planning  that comes from Changing Course.com.  This coaching method asks what do you want your life to look like, before it asks what kind of work/business do you want to do.  It consists of one-three laser coaching sessions to help the client discover how to make money from their passion(s).

Now I am finding passion to be a tricky component of starting a business.  Does your business have to be based on a passion?  Can it be based on a skill you have or based on a need in the community that you can meet without it being something you are passionate about?  What if your passion will not translate into a business of job – you’re passionate about baseball or opera – but you do not have the talent to work in these fields? (Of course, you might have the ability to write about them)  What about a passion to do anything that will make a lot of money and give you lots of leisure time?  (And there are plenty of websites that promise help you do this)

Life first –work second.  What do you want your life to look like?  If your leisure time activities are really important to you, you certainly may want a business that provides plenty of leisure time.  If your life is your children  or grandchildren, then work should allow plenty of time with the kids.   Your business may be online, but it does not have to be. 

Abel Gonzales Jr. works for24 consecutive days, 15 hours per day at the Texas State Fair, frying up a food that he “invented” – fried butter.  You can probably understand how inventing new tasty treats could be a passion, but 24 long days in the heat of Texas!  Abel makes enough in these 24 days for the rest of the year.  More than 11 months to do whatever else he wants .  (From Changing Course –Special Edition 9/15/13)   If creating new fried food sensations may be your passion, check out what has won prizes at the Texas State Fair.  http://www.bigtex.com/sft/Nav/foodinformation.asp

All that leisure time would fulfill the needs of some of us and be a nightmare for others.   Assessing or knowing yourself is part of Life first.  If you are an Extrovert who gets your energy from being around people or  a person for whom work has always given structure to your life, having lots of leisure time will not fulfill your needs.  If you are a retiree who wants to start a business or are thinking of starting a business when your retire, there are many things you should consider and your need for structured time and time spent with other people are two of those considerations.

What’s more important?  Money?  Passion?  Leisure?  Meeting some need?  Using your skills or talents?  Let the Halfpreneur know your opinion.

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