What would you view as more fulfilling, spending quality time with your family and friends throughout your life, or working extra hard for the promotions and the higher salaries as a leading professional at some company, retiring as one of the leading and respected employees in a business?
Interviews with people on their deathbeds document that their biggest regrets were not spending more time with their family. They were good people, who worked hard to provide for their family, but spent more time away working. If they could change one thing, they would have worked less to be at home more.
Many of these people worked hard for their careers, and could be models of how people should work to be successful. Achievement is a result of hard work and dedication in almost every case. Motivation for salaries and titles are not bad things to aim for. People want to be the best at what they do, and this is a positive thing. Earning what you deserve is a positive feeling and attitude.
Motivation purely on material things can be a double-edged sword. It can provide prosperity, stature, and respect in the business community. But will someone purely motivated by material things be satisfied and fully happy?
Instead I recommend focusing on making a difference, and to leave a lasting legacy. Work hard, get educated, and always be the best you can be, but don’t let the desire to hit the six figure salary be your primary motivation. Many prosperous and successful people are selfless and focus on making an impact. People can be motivated for selfless reasons, and be immensely prosperous. Simply look at Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, who make more money that I can comprehend, yet now seem to be fueled not by success in business, but by their legacy they will leave behind.
For those who are driven by the allure of the wealth and the prestige, they will be the ones who are never quite satisfied. They want to graduate at the top in their class, and sacrifice to do so. They want to work up the hierarchy at work, and will sacrifice to do so. They may come in early, stay late, or burn through the weekends to be recognized. Maybe they achieve their goals to move up, but will they ever truly be satisfied? Or would they simply expand their goals, and start the process over again?
Understanding your motivation will be essential for happiness and satisfaction. Those who are motivated by the immaterial things will look back at their life, and smile at all the memories and feelings of love. Those who are motivated by the material things in life will probably be the ones who lament on the missed opportunities to have better relationships with family and friends.
I’ll modify the common ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ interview question. Where do you see yourself at the end of your life? Will you regret having spent too much time focusing on material goals, or will you fondly remember the enriched relationships and love? Will moving into a larger office be more rewarding than the memories of vacations and watching the kids grow up? What you are doing right now is already moving you towards that answer.
So what motivates you?