Statistics say that over 60% of Americans hate their jobs. Some say it is over 80%, depending on where you look. Bottom line, it is vast majority. For many, hate may be a strong word. Dissatisfied is more appropriate. The real question is, why is it that so many people are unhappy with their careers. And, most importantly, why don’t they keep pursuing their passion?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
The answer to these big two questions lies in a simple well-known pyramid picture, called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Please see the attached illustration. Where does career belong on this pyramid? It is mentioned as part of safety needs. However, it can belong in any of these sections, depending on the type of career and how much you’re earning. In order to meet your physiological needs, you need some money to buy food, clothing and pay for a place to live. Unless someone is providing it for you, you need to be working in order to provide those things for yourself.
Employment is also a huge part of our safety needs, closely tied to our sense of security. As you move up the pyramid, you see the need for love and belonging. This may seem like a different type of need, but can you imagine working for a company where you don’t get along with people? The higher you move up the pyramid of needs, your career becomes less of a necessity and more of a source of satisfaction. For highly accomplished individuals, career is a huge part of their esteem, need for status, recognition and sense of freedom. A thriving career that truly aligns with your purpose lies at the top of the pyramid, your self-actualization. It is the place where you can truly express your brilliance and live in the zone of your genius.
When all of our basic needs are met, we get comfortable
The problem is, in our society, most people go after their dreams until their basic and most urgent needs are satisfied. And then they stop. Some people stop pursuing their dreams when all of their physiological needs are met, convincing themselves they don’t need anything more out of life. Others keep going until they achieve careers that bring them a better sense of belonging, status, respect and financial freedom. But in order to get into the realm of self-actualization, one must make a giant leap. Taking this leap often involves risking your security, recognition, freedom and sometimes even relationships. That’s why many of us hesitate to make that leap. This leap often triggers our fear of losing what we already have.
When most of our urgent needs are met, we may be ok for now. But if we don’t go after our ultimate dream, the one that involves personal growth, self-actualization and becoming our best version of self, we will continue to experience the nagging feeling that something is missing. At any point in your life you have a choice to take a chance and make that leap to keep pursuing your passion or continue to tolerate what you have. The choice is yours.