“How can I manage the trade-off between making money and doing what I love?”

The question came to me from a young woman who was trying to make a living by teaching people to make homemade natural cosmetics. She was so positive, knowledgeable and inspired by her choice of career and yet I can imagine it would be difficult to make money with such a business.

Every day, people like her are making choices between artistic, creative, athletic or unconventional careers that inspire them, and conventional careers with more predictable financial rewards. Any move to a new career often means reduced income. But we cannot find fulfillment by choosing only careers that pay well.  We want both enough money to support ourselves and our families and the chance to experiment, to learn, to do something meaningful with our working energy.

Managing this trade-off between earning money and loving your work is not easy, but many have travelled this route before so there are some pointers to help you along the way. In this article, I cover the first of three keys to making the trade-off successfully.

1) Reduce your need for money by getting your emotional needs met.

We use money to satisfy our basic physical needs, and also to meet many different emotional needs. We use money to feel respected, recognized, valued, successful, worthy, good enough, secure, in control and many more.  In reality, all of those emotional needs can be met in other ways without any money at all. Emotional needs are met in the emotions, not in the bank account.

Take the example of one of my clients who we’ll call Susan. Susan had been working in investment banking, spending long hours on work she did not like, but making a lot of money. Since her job was coming to an end, she was considering moving into a different field. She remembered a job she had greatly enjoyed as a career counsellor in a university. She had enjoyed the work interacting with students, and also the fact that she was genuinely helping others. But she realized that the poor level of pay would make her feel devalued and of low status in society.

Susan faced a conflict between her natural work strengths and preferences, and her unmet need for status that she was using money to satisfy. Apart from staying with the well-paying job that she didn’t enjoy, what could she do?

With some personal reflection and specific changes, Susan could get those emotional needs met in a more effective way.  For example, she could change her own internal prejudices against service work by examining where her beliefs came from, by feeling and accepting the emotions behind those beliefs, and by replacing them with more supportive beliefs. She could request morale support from her family and friends or else avoid people who criticize her career choices. She could spend more time with people who would value her work for the contribution it made rather than for the money it earned. She could start noticing how she feels when serving others and appreciating those feelings. These are just a few ideas of small steps that support a bigger change.

I have a specific process that I take my clients through in order to complete this change. It starts with identifying the critical need that is limiting your career choices, it takes you through a series of questions on how the need affects your life, and it culminates with specific thinking, relationship and behaviour changes. The result is much more freedom of choice and a lasting ability to get your emotional needs met.

In summary, if you are using money to get your emotional needs met, you’re wasting a lot of time and energy on a fool’s game. Emotional needs can only be met on an emotional level. By investigating how you have created the illusion of those needs, you can free yourself from the need to work for money.

In later articles on this topic, I will explain two more keys to managing this trade-off. In the meantime, please post any questions you have on getting your needs met and I will be pleased to respond.

Angela Spaxman
Angela Spaxman
Career and Leadership Coach , Loving Your Work
Angela Spaxman is one of Hong Kong’s leading experts in professional coaching. She is a highly effective and experienced executive coach, career coach, corporate facilitator and trainer. Angela’s leadership experiences, her decades of personal development, her well-grounded confidence and her natural curiosity give her great insight into how to manage, motivate and lead people to be at their best.