When you were young, what was your ambition? It must be something simple. We as children can do anything we are interested in, no need to worry about food and school tuitions. But as we grew older, things changed. We need to buy our own food, pay our own university tuitions, pay bills, etc. Money becomes important because everything comes with a tag price. Some of us might no longer be supported financially by our family. And as we become an adult and bear more responsibilities, we might encounter more dilemmas – should we work for passion or paycheck?

It is an eternal struggle for almost everyone out there. You will always see someone who earns more, someone who loves their job more, or someone who is happier than you. And that is when you question yourself – why do you work?

Passion

It is a very noble reason to be working for passion, because it hearkens back to a more idealistic time of your life, when a career means doing something you loved. But passion does not always equate to success, materialistically or otherwise. That is because the reason for work is altruistic – you do your job because you want to. And because of that, so much of yourself is invested in your work that success is so much sweeter, but failures will sting harder and closer to the heart than if you did your job for a paycheck.

We all have to pay our dues, and when failures accumulate, it is natural to look on the other side of the fence. See all our peers who work purely for income. And realise that their salaries are so much higher than your own. There will come a time in your life when you equate your self worth to your net worth – and you will ask yourself: Is this worth it?

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Paycheck

Working for cold, hard cash is the answer, then. It is a practical, respectable reason for work. Our parents had only one rationale for employment, to support themselves and their families. Indirectly or directly, they passed that mentality to us. Working for money is good, moral, a Confucian ethic.

However, as you work for money, you slowly realise that money has a cost. Your time. You are using the time to pay for your money. Time that could be used to pursue your interests or to spend time with loved ones. Most importantly, time could be used to develop yourself as a person.

It is nice to have this nest egg. But one day you will look at your bank account, and you will wonder if it is all worth it when other people seem to be happier doing what they are passionate about, for so much less.

Is it passion or paycheck you should care about during young adulthood?

The reasons for work are not so binary. Other people stay on in their companies because they love their colleagues and the environment. Some stay in their jobs simply because they do not know what else to do. Many stay and work because the company offers them a good work-life balance.

But all happy people have one thing in common. They know what is important to them and pursue them. You see, no two people are alike. Money might be important to some individuals, but interest might be more important to some others. Having time to spend with family might be important to one, but good colleagues might be more important to another.

So, what’s important to you?

Different people value different things in life. Sports, friends, family, religion, money, passion, power, prestige – the list goes on. It is identifying what is important to you that is the key to happiness. The question is not whether to work for passion or paycheck, but whether you are working to fulfil the goals that make you happy.

Ask yourself what is important to you. If you do not know, try. It is completely OK to make mistakes, to try every possible reason to work, and to not have all the answers. That is what life is about. But once you know what is important to you, everything will fall in place. And then you will not just be working for passion or paycheck. You will be working for your own happiness.

Read also: How to Tell: Are You in the Wrong Career, or Just Lazy? 

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