Author Topic: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family  (Read 1482 times)

BOP Mustache

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In my parents and grandparents generation it seemed they were content to work in jobs that allowed them to provide financially for themselves and their families.

Now everyone seems to want meaning, purpose and do something they are passionate about.

Why do you think there is this generational shift? Is it because there are literally infinite career paths now instead of the handful in the early 1900ís or because we were lead to believe we could do anything in school or that in the world of Facebook and instagram we think everyone else is working somewhere meaningful so we should too or all the above?

This came about from reading Becoming by Michelle Obama and her mother says make the money first and get happy later but she follows a different path after becoming Ivy League educated and on a 120k plus salary in her early 20s and goes to work in not for profit for peanuts

Pigeon

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2021, 08:40:02 PM »
I think that for some reason, maybe from constant media exposure, everyone seems to think they have the right to be always entertained and blissfully happy. We expect schools to be entertaining and put all the onus on teachers to make everything fun. We put very little emphasis on the idea that leaning involves effort by the student.

I like to remind myself and my kids that for 99.99999% of human history, pretty much every waking moment was spent in a struggle to survive, usually involving backbreaking toil for most people. We donít do a very good job keeping that in context.

I think that if you can find work that has some aspects that you find enjoyable some of the time and that you feel has some positive impacts, you are very lucky. It it is, after all, work and thatís why they have to pay you.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2021, 09:56:32 PM »
Interesting question. I've actually found a lot of disparate jobs to be very meaningful, and a lot of the time, a big part of what made them meaningful was the fact that they paid money by which I could support myself. That meant something to me.

I've been a housekeeper at a hotel and it felt meaningful to me to efficiently make the rooms clean for the guests. I've been a cook and a dishwasher and it felt meaningful to me to make food for hungry people and get the kitchen sparkling. For the majority of my life, I've been a teacher--exceptionally meaningful job, for obvious reasons, but I've always also appreciated the salary that came with it. Work, to me, has mostly had a great deal of meaning and purpose, regardless of the manner of employment. I'm grateful for that point of view; it's been a comfort to me for my whole life.

In other words, I think there's meaning and purpose in work AND compensation for that work. Divorcing the two seems like a fallacy.

Plina

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2021, 12:00:20 AM »
I wonder how much of the meaningful is related to the fact that companies want to promote work as a way of life. If work is only a way to support money it is only a part of your life. If your work is your life, you would hope it is meaningful.

When my parents and grandparents left work, they left work at work. While at least my work is a lot more difficult to leave at work because cellphones have brought an expectation that you are available. You also have people that email you in the night so even though I donít check the email.


Cranky

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2021, 04:47:39 AM »
I think this may be a matter of perspective.

I know that my parents both brought work home with them, 50 years ago. I know that 50 years ago, my peers were discussing the importance of ďright livelihood ď.

I also know plenty of people today who expect their job to just be a job, and itís ďmeaningĒ is that it puts food on the table.

mistymoney

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2021, 08:18:13 AM »
In my parents and grandparents generation it seemed they were content to work in jobs that allowed them to provide financially for themselves and their families.

Now everyone seems to want meaning, purpose and do something they are passionate about.

Why do you think there is this generational shift?

well - there is a lot of missing information. Are the people in your "everyone" all parents? do they all have families to support?

And the information we have on the older generations is very limited, what might their internal struggles have been regarding this? how did gender hinder  options - both individually and for a couple? If two share the breadwinning - how is that impacting the ability to make choices?

Metalcat

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2021, 08:53:20 AM »
???

Following passions has always been a thing. Otherwise we wouldn't have an enormous history full of poets, writers, artists, performers, philosophers, religious scholars, athletes, etc, etc, etc.

It's not like this is a new concept at all, it's just a new concept that the non-wealthy generally have these ambitions as well.

Why do poor kids from small towns have these dreams now-a-days? Uh, because we can. Thank God no one ever told me not to or to be "realistic" and focus on being able to support my family, because I really, really like not wasting my precious time doing work I don't love.

In reality though, I see much less acceptance of following ones passions these days. Watch what happens when a bright, young person says they study English Literature or Philosophy, or if they say they want to pursue the arts. Most people blatantly shit on them and say derogatory things like "enjoy your job as a barista".

The world doesn't actually support dreams, it supports ambition, and there's a huge difference.

There aren't actually a lot of us out there voluntarily making substantially less money for the sake of finding more meaningful work, and I can speak from experience that when we do, we get heavily questioned for it.

Of all the thousands of young people I've advised and coached in my years, very, very few of them feel allowed to pursue their real passions over financial security, and research about young people clearly backs up my personal experience.

So I'm not even sure where this misconception is coming from. Sure, the media portrays it as young people always following their "dreams", but the reality of millenials at least is that they're overworked and rather focused on financial security.

ctuser1

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2021, 09:04:36 AM »
OP, the below is not intended as a putdown.

The people you describe are most probably like 99.99% of other people in a first world country living in a bubble of opulence.

For reference: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-1-no-poverty.html

736 million people live in extreme poverty, and by that term they are not talking about what is considered "poverty" in a first world country.

The people who act the way you described have probably never interacted with anyone in the bottom 95% of the economic ladder in the world.

Cassie

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2021, 09:37:02 AM »
Many in my parents generation hated their jobs but had no choice. My parents encouraged us to obtain the education of training needed not to have this be our destiny. I had a career in human services that I loved. At times I hated the bureaucracy that I worked in. In retirement I was offered the chance to teach a online college class and thatís been very rewarding.

Metalcat

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2021, 10:01:57 AM »
Funny thinking about this a little more, both of my parents and all of their siblings were pretty hardcore about only doing work they enjoyed. Most of them were serious dream followers, and quite successful at it. None of them had boring, pragmatic careers, yet almost all of their kids do.

Plina

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2021, 11:25:05 AM »
OP, the below is not intended as a putdown.

The people you describe are most probably like 99.99% of other people in a first world country living in a bubble of opulence.

For reference: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-1-no-poverty.html

736 million people live in extreme poverty, and by that term they are not talking about what is considered "poverty" in a first world country.

The people who act the way you described have probably never interacted with anyone in the bottom 95% of the economic ladder in the world.

I was taking a sabbatical two years ago and spent it traveling in Asia. One of my reflections during that trip was that I donít know what it means to be poor. I come from a working class family and was among the first in my generation to go to university. Many of my cousins have followed the path. I grew up in a first world country with all the benefits of basically free health care and free education. The backpack that I kept lugging around everywhere contained tech toys that had cost more to purchase then the yearly salary for some of the people I saw during my trip. Except for two months between university and work I have never needed to worry about paying my bills and I know that my parents would help if necessary.

The trip made me really realise how priviledged I was and actually appreciate home a lot more. I have never felt I donít have a choice because I have always chosen to keep my costs down but I also realise that many people are not that lucky.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 11:06:34 AM by Plina »

Tester

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2021, 08:59:48 AM »
I am lucky to still do a job I love.
I do not always love the job because of politics/sime people I am working with, but the job I love.

That being said, my purpose is still to earn money to provide for my family. For me this is the ultimate purpose for now, and we are inches from 500k net worth, hope to get to 1 million in the next 5 years.
Who knows, perhaps after the double commas mark I might start looking to other jobs which might give me more time with family.

One more thing: work is work and not all work will be fun. There are some things I don't like to do, but they have to be done for the job to be done. Those things are important...
I remember a discussion with some managers in one of my previos jobs and they were thinking about ways of making the people do the boring part of the work to get a project over the done line. It felt strange to me as an Engineer (with some management experience) and I told them that work is work and if people really can't be bothered to finish the job after they have done the interrsting part perhaps those people should be better in a research position, not in a production position.
Perhaps I  am wrong, but work can't be all rainbows and unicorns - or rock and roll, depends on what you like.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 09:07:23 AM by Tester »

Morning Glory

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2021, 08:58:46 AM »
I took a pragmatic career path because I really didn't know what I wanted to do and I wasn't aware of many of the options.  The one thing I knew that I wanted was to be able to support myself and not have to depend on a man.  I have always been the family breadwinner and the responsible one in the relationship (not going to unpack all that here).  One of the things that has driven me towards FIRE is the idea that we could all be on the street if I lose my job. I'm getting close to fire because I relocated to make more money, pursued advanced education, and worked multiple side hustles along the way. 

My career has meaning in that it directly contributes to the health of other people. I have enjoyed some of my jobs more than others (absolutely hated the one right before this one).  I like learning new jobs and don't do well with monotonous tasks.  My favorite parts of the job are things that involve learning and studying.  I just made a transition to being an educator in my field and I love the actual teaching part, however I do not enjoy the long hours of sitting and looking at a screen.  Previous posters are right: jobs are jobs, you can't just do the fun part and ignore the rest.


Runrunrun

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2021, 07:14:00 AM »
I wonder how much of the meaningful is related to the fact that companies want to promote work as a way of life. If work is only a way to support money it is only a part of your life. If your work is your life, you would hope it is meaningful.

When my parents and grandparents left work, they left work at work. While at least my work is a lot more difficult to leave at work because cellphones have brought an expectation that you are available. You also have people that email you in the night so even though I donít check the email.

This is my theory too, if work is going to invade all hours of my day, I would have a higher inclination to find something I am passionate about.


roomtempmayo

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Re: Working for meaning/purpose vs working for money to support family
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2021, 08:56:32 AM »
In my parents and grandparents generation it seemed they were content to work in jobs that allowed them to provide financially for themselves and their families.

Now everyone seems to want meaning, purpose and do something they are passionate about.

Why do you think there is this generational shift? Is it because there are literally infinite career paths now instead of the handful in the early 1900ís or because we were lead to believe we could do anything in school or that in the world of Facebook and instagram we think everyone else is working somewhere meaningful so we should too or all the above?

I think David Brooks' book Bobos in Paradise holds up pretty well here.  It's been a long time since I've read it, but the basic argument is that after WWII the combination of university access and the emergence of a well compensated professional class made it possible for the average kid to pursue a career that was the whole ball of wax: upper middle class money, creativity, and at least a claim to being of service to others.  The new professional class rejected the open pursuit of money, and instead the money just happened because of their value to society in a meritocratic hierarchy.  Money just exists in the background, it's not something to be pursued for its own sake.

In a high growth world with all sorts of new ways of creating value in concrete, face-to-face ways, I think a lot of people would find that sort of post-material creative wealth attractive. 

The issue is that in an environment of either low growth (the money part) or abstract value creation (the creative service part), it doesn't work as a way of measuring success.  Most of the economy today can be either categorizes as slow growth, or abstract, or both.  And so we have two sorts of responses, one from people in the old paradigm of creativity and service angsty that their salaries and social positions are no longer growing as a given, and the other from people who are making a bunch of money with abstract tools and angsty that the paradigm of success in much of the professional world still includes creativity and service.  Hardly anyone gets to be an unqualified success anymore because there are two paradigms in conflict.

I suspect that one reason the old paradigm of highly paid creative professional services hangs on even as it doesn't match the opportunities in the economy is that it's just plain more attractive to lots of people to be well compensated to help humans in a concrete way than it is to make money in more abstract ways.