The Purpose of Work

posted 30 Nov 2011, 07:23 by C S Paul   [ updated 30 Nov 2011, 07:23 ]

The Purpose of Work
By Michael Josephson 

Obviously, the most fundamental purpose of work is to attain adequate food and shelter. But once the essentials of survival are taken care of, attitudes about work differ.

Those who simply view work as a means of survival or attaining wealth do just what they have to do to meet their needs. People with high material ambitions may work extremely hard, sacrificing relationships and other life goals in the process. Their work is simply a means to an end. Such people are apt to stay in jobs they don't like in the hope it will buy them happiness in another venue.

Others consider their work as an intrinsic part of their lives. They identify with their jobs and the way they do their work is an expression of their personhood. Whether they like their jobs or not, they take pride in their work and strive toward virtues like conscientiousness, reliability, devotion and the pursuit of excellence.

The most fortunate of all are those that find both meaning and pleasure in their labor. They view their jobs as careers. 

The great test of the perfect job is: If you could afford to, would you do it even if you weren't paid? Interestingly, the people most likely to say yes are teachers, coaches, police officers, social workers and others who derive joy and meaning out of serving others.

Michael Josephson, a leading ethicists, is the founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the premier youth character education program. For further information visit