Image of people at work in an office for article titled “motivation to work in contemporary society”.
Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Our Motivation To Work

Welcome to The Reflectionist, a daily dose of reflection on the nature of the self, personal reality, creativity, life and work by Larry G. Maguire, submitted to the public record for posterity. All articles here are free to read for Medium members and Patrons via private link. If you enjoy my writing or gain some personal value, please consider supporting my work . Patronage starts at only $1.

How in the lovin’ name o’ Jasus Christ could you be happy, motivated, enthused and productive working in a room like the one in the picture above?

Yet people do it.

Millions leave their beds every morning to sit in big rooms with dozens of other people, like hens in a chicken shed, to punch keys in exchange for a paycheque.

The modern workplace is a tarted-up19th Century workhouse, and you’re on the clock — their clock.

They own you.

You might say that the job serves you.

You might say that it gives you money to live, but is not the work you do part of living? Why do we wait until 5 pm on a Friday afternoon to live, then revert to something less than that at 7 am Monday morning?

How we work is insane.

When I Woke Up

A few years back as I went through somewhat of a transition in attitude to work and career, I watched from my van as dozens of grey-faced people made their way along the canal at Mespil Road in Dublin.

When the lights went red the pedestrian workers stopped, most of them. Some broke the lights in their hurry to make the office. Cars and bikes and trucks lumbered along the road, not getting very far.

Drivers looked like robots.

When the lights went green, the pedestrians began shuffling along the footpath again.

For some reason, one woman, in particular, stood out.

She wore a grey suit, her head dipped, eyes vacant, staring ahead into nothing, as she made her way along.

I wondered what type of job she had.

In stark contrast, on the opposite side of the street, there were three blokes laughing and joking. They may have been still half-drunk from the night before, but the difference I noticed was remarkable.

I wondered why we enter and support the current system.

I wondered why that, even though many of us say we’d rather be doing something else, we endure for the sake of money.

That was a turning point for me professionally.

It’s the day that things began to shift and the drama of my own working difficulties began to settle down.

Momentum of The System

We follow this system of work like drones.

It’s insane!

If that’s you, I truly sympathise.

But maybe I shouldn’t sympathise.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so righteous.

Maybe you’re happy in your work and if money was not a factor, you’d still do what you do.

Or maybe you wouldn’t.

I ask this question of people regularly and seldom do they say they’d keep doing what they currently do for work.

Fact is though, much of the research I’ve read to date suggests that directly employed people are dissatisfied with their work.

It seems that if you work for yourself you’ll be happier.

Having been an employee for 10 years then working for myself for a further 20 years, I’ve had the benefit of both sides.

As such, I can say with certainty that working for yourself is far better than working for other people. Of course, we’ve got to work for others in order to learn the skills of the game, but once that’s complete we should have our eye on the door.

The system has momentum and it carries us along. We don’t really think about an alternative unless somewhere along the line someone has exposed us to other possibilities.

So we get a job and settle into working life in the system.

Then when we hit mid-forties we wonder what the fuck we’ve been doing for our entire adult life.

That’s how it was for me anyway.

The Alternative

Work for yourself.

Find someone who is a master at their craft and train with them. Then when you’ve learned the ropes and have accumulated sufficient skills to work alone, break out.

Otherwise, you’ll remain dependant on others for the best part of your life for your livelihood.

When you work for yourself, no matter what the work is, you become self-reliant and self-supportive and independent of mind.

You learn to develop skills that you would not ordinarily develop and your world opens up.

You learn who you are.

It’s difficult though, I won’t lie to you.

But if it’s comfort you’re after then you better be prepared to sacrifice security because you cannot have both.

Besides, there really is no such thing as job security.

When you work for yourself you become responsible for your income, completely. But of course, that’s scary.

Most people don’t want that level of responsibility. They’d rather put the blinkers on and pretend that life is great and that their job will always be there.

They endure for the sake of false security.

I have been telling my kids since they were old enough to understand, that by 25 years of age they will work for themselves.

That will be their security, and their motivation to work will be that thing that draws them in, where their curiosity takes them.

That will be my legacy to them.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. Research and writing takes lots of time, so if you like what I’m creating, consider becoming a patron

You’ll also find me here

Articles ¦ Twitter ¦ Patreon ¦ FREE Book📓



A publication by Larry G. Maguire, organisational psychologist and writer on the psychology of work, human performance, creativity, and behaviour.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Larry G. Maguire

Work & Org Psychologist writing on the human relationship with work | Slight Perfectionist | Introverted | Humanist Socialist |