The truly rich man lies in the sun and sleeps.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The job interview went great. You aren’t surprised when the nice lady from HR calls you to offer you the job and as she talks, you hold your breath for the only thing that really matters: how much does it pay?
We’ve all been in that situation. Sure, the pay matters, to a degree, but should it trump everything else? Money is necessary; money is our mode of exchange. It has its place. But it is unfortunate that we so often stress its importance so far above other compensations that are necessary to our happiness. To understand the actual benefits we receive in exchange for our labors, we must consider the factors below.
Money. Yes, it matters. Not for the purpose of status or self-worth, but because it provides freedom to meet our basic needs and to focus on bigger things. We can’t give money to charity if we don’t have it to give. Money buys food, clothes, shelter, paintbrushes, guitar strings and hammocks.
Purpose. Does your job have meaning to you? Are you serving the world, yourself, your community? Are you making a difference in the lives of your customers, clients, co-workers? Despite the stress, labor, and setbacks you experience, do you still wake up looking forward to what you do? Do you care about your work and believe you do good things?
Passion. Passion overlaps purpose, but whereas purpose is an intellectual understanding (knowing that what you do is a worthy thing) passion is a heart-based experience. Passion is the rush, the intensity, the exuberance experienced that is similar to what you felt as a child when you hit a home run, won the art contest or earned praise for your science project. It’s taking joy in the process and being in the flow. How often do you experience this in your work?
Autonomy. Do you have freedom to work at your own rhythm and at the hours you are most productive? Are you given leeway to follow your intuition? Are you trusted not to have to punch a clock and not to have every action approved ahead of time? That’s having autonomy. All humans crave it and are happier when they have it.
Time away. Work requires commitment, and commitment means time. But no one can remain happy and fulfilled when any one endeavor saps all the time and energy from other needs and passions of life. Does your job allow you enough time away that you get enough sleep, spend time with your loved ones, can exercise, eat a languid meal, travel, be idle and have an inner life?
Achieving a balance among the elements listed above is necessary to have truly satisfying work. If you enjoy your work and have a friend that makes double your salary but works sixty hours a week at a job he hates, he is not compensated better than you.
Calculate your true compensation and find your balance. On your deathbed, you will have the joy of looking back on your work life without regret.