Yale’s Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski of has found that you can see your work in one of three ways. At it’s lowest level it’s just a job. You do it for the money. When I backpacked around the world I had many jobs washing dishes, picking avocados, carrying bricks. Work was a means to an end: money to travel. At the second level work is a career. This is when we’re in it for upward mobility and status. But what you really want is for your work to be a calling. This is when work is love made visible. We do it with a deep sense of purpose believing that in some small way we’re making the world a better place. You’d probably do it even if you weren’t getting paid like most of the Youtube creators out there, me included.
The calling isn’t in the work; the calling is what we bring to the work. If you’re a doctor and you’re only in it for the money, it’s a job. If you’re a street sweeper knowing that you’re making the world a cleaner, better place you’ve got a calling. People who see themselves as missionaries, making a real difference, report much greater life and job satisfaction then those who see themselves as mercenaries – only in it for money and career advancement. But it turns out missionaries are also way more successful.
Professor Adam Grant divided a group of salespeople into three groups. The “missionary group” read stories about how the services offered by the team had made a real difference in customer’s lives. The “mercenary group” read stories about how sales people in the same job had personally benefited financially and by increasing their skills. The third group was a control group who listened to unrelated stories. The mercenary and control group didn’t improve their sales. The “missionary group” doubled theirs. By being clear about the positive impact their services were having, this group’s overall motivation and effectiveness was radically increased.
We all need to put bread on the table. Nothing wrong with being motivated by money and status but when you add purpose to the mix, well that might just be the best way to get more money and status. As a conference speaker I have a job, a career and a calling. But if you’re not feeling your calling how do you unlock your inner missionary? Before you start work each day ask yourself: “How are people’s lives going to be better off because of me.”
Now experiment on yourself!