If money were no object, what would you do?

Today is February 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “if money were no object, what would you do?” While you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well bills need to be paid. With today’s escalating cost of higher education, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and the overall cost of living in general money is a necessity. Today’s question allows us an opportunity to reflect upon the concept ‘if money were no object, what would you do?’ It is an important question to ask since it allows you the opportunity to think differently about your work situation.

For some people, all they focus in on is the money. This obsession with money is often at the cost of their own life situation. Dealing with a long commute to the office, a micromanaging boss, and incompetent colleagues is simply the price to pay for the big salary. Sometimes people spend years at a job they dislike because it pays well. There are people who simply take a job at 25 years of age and stay with it for 25 more years so they can retire at 50. All the while by some point during their 25 years of work they grow to despise it but they have convinced themselves to hang in there for the entire 25 years so they can get that pension and retire. This happens when the work is unfulfilling, the culture is unhealthy, and the work conditions are terrible. It is quite sad what people will put up with for money. The research suggests, however, that money is but one factor among many that goes into consideration when it comes to work.

In his 1967 publication The Motivation to Work, Frederick Herzberg identified two different categories of factors affecting the motivation to work: hygiene and motivation. Hygiene factors include extrinsic factors like technical supervision, interpersonal relations, physical working conditions, salary, company policies and administrative practices, benefits, and job security. In comparison, motivation factors include intrinsic elements such as achievement, recognition and status, responsibility, challenging work, and advancement in the organization. Herzberg's theory postulates that only motivation factors have the potential of increasing job satisfaction.

“The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. When employees are focused on external rewards, the effects of intrinsic motives on engagement are significantly diminished. This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money). Quite simply, you're more likely to like your job if you focus on the work itself, and less likely to enjoy it if you're focused on money.”

Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us makes the same observation. While many people believe that the best way to motivate others is with external rewards like money, the reality is that high performance and satisfaction is rooted in the three elements of true motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Money is important, but it is not as important as you think it is. As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic noted in the Harvard Business Review: "The more people focus on their salaries, the less they will focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun, and those are the very things that make people perform best."

Another way of asking yourself today’s question is “how long will I allow myself to be unhappy at work all in the name of money?” Is getting a new job easy? Of course not. Is making the transition from one industry to another easy? Not even a little. Is garnering the courage to make a life change easy? Nothing could be more difficult. For those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well, however, they find a way. In his video entitled "What do you desire/If money were no object" British philosopher and writer Alan Watts often posed this question when discussing career options with students. Although he died in 1973 his observations about a life well lived are even more relevant today. The video uses his voice over a series of images that challenge the viewer to answer the question “If money were no object, what would you do?”

As Watts says in the video:

“If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. It’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things, you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track. See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch and no vomit. It never gets there. And so, therefore, it’s so important to consider this question: What do I desire?”

If money were no object, what would you do?