Happy Labor Day: What are You Working Toward?

Labor Day is a great time to take a few minutes and reflect on what you are working toward.

Labor Day makes a great time to think about what you are working toward. It’s good to remember that the reason we celebrate Labor Day is to honor those who work hard jobs. Labor Day really is about the worker, and the contributions workers make to society. A lot of focus lately has been on so-called “job creators” — those who own companies and consider hiring. However, it makes sense, too, to take a step back and honor those who do the hard labor that provides many of the things we take for granted.

And, while we do want to remember those workers, this is also a good time to stop and think about what you are working toward in your own career and in your own life.

What Do You Want with Your Money?

Many of us work at jobs to earn money. That makes sense to some degree. We need money to survive. Indeed, even though we like to think that money can’t buy happiness, the truth is that we often require money in order to receive a level of security, and to find the base level of satisfaction that comes from knowing that your basic needs — shelter, food, clothing — are met.

Of course, some of us think that we need more money than others. There are those who are content with fewer things, and, as a result, don’t need a high paying job that requires them to work grueling hours. Basically, it comes down to what you want, and your idea of what success looks like.

So, take a step back and consider your own version of success. What does it look like? What do you want with your money? What do you want your money to accomplish? In my mind, there are two basic ways to look at money:

  1. An End: Is money an end in itself? This mindset means that you need to pile up the money in order to “keep score.” The more money you have, the better you feel about the situation. You either strive against yourself, knowing that you could save more, or earn more, or you compare your situation to others and hope to “win” by amassing greater wealth and status.
  2. A Means to an End: In this mindset, you see money as a tool to get you what you want, or to help you live a desired lifestyle. It’s not about trying to keep up with the neighbors, it’s about creating the lifestyle that most appeals to you, regardless of what those around you are doing.

Many of us actually employ versions of both of these mindsets in our lives. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, looking for a lifestyle that satisfies us, but at the same time “keeping score” against others. Perhaps this Labor Day, it’s time to take a step back and really get at the heart of your money motivations, and decide what you want to work toward. It is not uncommon to discover that you are working toward something that you don’t even desire.

Last spring, I was verging on burn out. For months, I had been taking on more and more jobs. I found I was cutting corners as I desperately tried to keep my head above water. I asked myself: What are you working toward? The answer was depressingly simple: More money.

Just having more money wasn’t motivation enough, though. I was stressed about getting my work done, and I wasn’t spending the time I wanted to with my son and husband, and I didn’t have time to myself. I re-evaluated my situation, and made some changes, cutting back on work, and re-arranging my schedule. I’m much less stressed now, and happier.

This Labor Day, take a step back. Remember to honor those who work hard, and then look at your own life, and your motivations. What are you working toward? Is it making you happy? If not, perhaps it’s time to change your focus, and start working toward the things that will make you happy.

Written by Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger, specializing in personal finance, small business, and investing topics. She writes for a number of financial web sites and blogs, and has been featured in numerous media. Read about life as a freelancer at MirandaMarquit.com and in her book Confessions of a Professional Blogger.

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