My Big Mouth: Why do we work?


When we hit our 30s it’s probably time to accept that NASA, the F.A and Hollywood won’t come calling.


By Tristan Carlyle

There are number of reasons why we choose the jobs we do, but whatever the motivation we all experience drawbacks in the workplace.

The most obvious motivation to work is to earn a wage. Above all else, the need to pay for food, shelter and bigger TVs is the why we stick at our jobs.

Few people dream of working in a call centre or making sandwiches for drunkards at 2a.m – it’s just what we do to make ends meet.

It then becomes easy to get stuck in a pattern of earning a low but solid wage. When you can afford a basic level of comfort, it is natural to settle.

Human beings are short-sighted by our very nature, and the prospect of immediate material gains can be difficult to look past.

Another motivation is improving our ‘career prospects’; a vague term used to justify doing work we dislike in the short term for a pay-off further down the line.

A common thing to hear is: “You should do this, it’ll look great on your CV!”

Translation: “I want you to do something for free!”

It’s important to take these situations with a pinch of salt; we cannot devote all our time working towards some undefined future benefit all the while missing out on opportunities in the here and now.

The final and oft forgotten incentive to work is enjoyment. Understandably it falls behind necessity in most people’s estimations.

When we hit our 30s it’s probably time to accept that NASA, the F.A and Hollywood won’t come calling.

If life gives you lemons it’s of little use developing a taste for orange juice.

Money. Prospects. Pleasure. The real difficulty comes in finding a balance between the three.

When starting out in employment, it is impossible to make gains on one front without another suffering.

Yet as we do, we often only exacerbate the problems above. 

True progress is not advancing any one of the reasons we work, but finding an equilibrium between the three.

For the workaholics and the money-driven there is a whole market of self-help literature for how to strike a balance between their personal lives and their working demands – how to have it all.

Earn the biggest wages, climb the ladder and love our lives.

These books are based on the presumption that it is possible to ‘win at life’, that there is a way to have it all.

This is a worthless assumption. We will always have to sacrifice something in our working lives.

The sooner we accept this, the less pressure we will put on ourselves.

Follow us on @SW_Londoner

Related Articles