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  • Writer's pictureBahar Önderol

Why Do We Work?

Updated: Jun 21

Why do we work?

I begin with this question in the “Designing My Career” group coaching workshop. The answers I usually get are as follows:

  • to make money for a living,

  • to gain prestige and status,

  • to feel a belonging

  • to have a circle of friends where we are accepted and loved.

These external rewards that are obtained as a result of the work, create a feeling of satisfaction and happiness in gratifying our respective needs, but they are temporary. After a while, the need to get a better salary or move to a higher position begins to creep back while satisfaction fades. According to Academician and Psychologist Abraham Maslow, it is because we have deficient motives to gratify such needs. These motives can lead us to advance in our careers, but not to have a fulfilling career.

For a fulfilling career, we first need to have a love for the job we do. There is a direct relationship between love and our latent powers, which consist of talents, skills and knowledge. If we feel a deep love for the job we do, called the love of duty, then the work itself becomes a reward for us. In other words, even if there are no rewards at the end of doing that job, we feel the desire to work because we enjoy the work itself. We feel an obligation to do that work because of our internal tendencies (Maslow calls it growth motives). Work becomes “a pleasant pursuit” for us. Just like Vincent Van Gogh continued to paint even though his paintings were never sold throughout his life. The state of mind for this type of work itself is called "a flow state" or “being in the zone”. In this state of working, which detaches us from time and space to some extent, we gain other inner rewards such as “the feeling of accomplishment”, “learning something new”, “acquiring new skills” and “self-development”, which will turn our potential into reality. These inner rewards, unlike external rewards, create a deep, lasting sense of satisfaction in other words fulfilment. That provides us with internal motivation, increases our productivity and creativity, and therefore our success at work. As a result, we also get the external rewards we listed above and advance in our careers. However, we are now freed from the feeling of bondage that comes from working for them. We are liberated. Just as a caterpillar emerges from its cocoon and turns into a butterfly, we realize our potential by stepping out of our comfort zone. We feel the power to mould and create ourselves. As Aristotle said, striving to realize our own nature liberates us.

We all have the opportunity to liberate ourselves. It starts with discovering what work feels good and meaningful to us and taking action no matter where we are in our lives.


Kariyer ve Varoluş, Dr. Daniş Navaro

Man's Search for Himself, Rollo May


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