Are you caught in the money trap?

I’ve just been watching a great RSA talk from Dan Pink (you know, the one who coined the term ‘free agent’).  If you want to see it for yourself, it’s here.  In it, he talks about what drives us.

For many of you who are contemplating going it alone, working for yourself, the whole issue of how much money you will be able to earn working for yourself comes sharply into focus.

So many of us find ourselves in jobs that we find meaningless, we feel disrespected and diminished.  The initial honeymoon period often doesn’t last long and it becomes clear that your values and those of the company are not the same.

Great. So stop moaning and leave.  Ah, but what about the mortgage, and the kids and the car and the holidays?  If this sounds familiar, you are acutely aware that you are stuck in the money trap.

I wish I could save you from that fate. It doesn’t have to be like that, but only you know what a draw money is, when you have it.

This is why it is certainly easier to launch a business in your early years. You’ve got less riding on the results and are probably unencumbered by the trappings of life, so have more room to make mistakes and learn from them.

I’ll just say this.  Of course your financial commitments are important. But so is your duty of care to yourself and those around you.  I often think that staying in a job you hate and where you aren’t valued is like being in an abusive relationship, where your confidence gradually seeps away.

I firmly believe that we all have a purpose in life and that if you haven’t found yours yet, it is still there to be had.  You might even find it AND earn heaps of money.

launch-20-DriveBook-pop_1167So back to Mr Pink. In his book ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’, he outlines the way in which motivation works, particularly in getting people to work hard. He presents a new alternative to the ‘carrot and stick’ approach (still) used in many organisations, and suggests that it’s all about autonomy, mastery and purpose.

1.     Autonomy

We are all naturally inclined towards autonomy, i.e. making our own decisions. So if you think about it, it’s not normal at all to expect your employees to work like battery hens being directed by a hierarchy of managers.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that that’s going to be stressful for most people.

2.     Mastery

We are all naturally predisposed to getting better at doing things too.  Something inside us keeps pushing us on to be ever better at the things we enjoy.  And of course that’s at odds with the idea that organisations would like you to be good at doing your job.  Pink’s view is that motivation wanes when achieving in your job is beyond your reach.

3.     Purpose

Ah that purpose word again!  Ask anyone who works for themselves what motivates them, and it’s the fact that they can see a higher goal, a reason for being. That reason, as I said at the beginning of the article is often lost as organisations grow and become out of touch with their employees.

As Pink states, “profit-driven approaches relegate purpose to a nice accessory if you want it, so long as it does not get in the way of the important stuff”.

Except that the important stuff is what it’s all about!

Apparently not.  The research shows this should not be the case. Many of us are all bringing back-stories from the corporate trenches of ‘carrot and stick’, or sometimes just stick.  I wonder if it’s even possible for employers to offer the kind of autonomy, mastery and purpose that we crave.

But there is an answer, of course. You can always be your own boss.








Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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