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What Drives You to Look for Meaningful Work?

Written By Millen Livis

If you are still looking for your purpose in life, for a kind of work that will make your heart sing, you are not alone! Statistics show that more than half of Americans are unhappy with their jobs! (Conference Board 2014). These statistics seem even more shocking considering that our work takes up most of our daily lives. So many people these days are seeking for more fulfilling and meaningful work! Even if they still hold it-pays-my-bills jobs for now, they dream about and have a vision for their work that is more aligned with their talents, passions and values.

I’ve been curious for a while about an undeniable drive that keeps many of us seeking for more inspiring work and ways for authentic expression. I myself have been asked many times questions like “Why do you need to write books? Why do you constantly search for ways to serve, to share, to express yourself? You are a human being not a human doing! Can’t you just be?”

I’ve heard these questions from my husband and others often enough to start asking myself, “Why do humans behave the way we do? What drives us?”

Whatever experience you’re going through now – health challenges, a relationship break up, betrayal, loss of job, financial losses, personal rejection or a career change – your perception of the challenges and reactions to ‘problems’ in life conceal deep hidden needs for something more fundamental than may appear on a surface.

Hierarchy of Human Needs

We rarely (or never) make the effort to dig deeper into our feelings in order to discover the underlying reasons for our frustrations, desires, motivations or pain.

In the meantime, at the root of what we perceive as problems in life lay many unsatisfied human needs: to belong, to be loved, to feel safe, to be acknowledged, to feel significant. A psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow first introduced the hierarchy of human needs back in the 1960s. There were five categories in Maslow’s original list of human needs:

  • Biological/Psychological
  • Safety
  • Love
  • Esteem
  • Self-Actualization

Although there have been a few modifications to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, I would like to offer you my own summarized interpretation of the human needs hierarchy in the following order of importance:

  1. Need for physical comfort. Having air, food, water and shelter; having enough sleep, not experiencing physical pain.
  2. Need to feel safe. This translates into having enough material possessions and a reliable source of money/income to have perceived security now and in the future.
  3. Need for connection. We have an inherent need to belong, to have companionship, to be accepted, to feel connected with an individual or be part of a group.
  4. Need to feel significant, acknowledged, valued, recognized, seen and heard.
  5. Need to be self-actualized. To develop and express our talents and expertise to benefit the world, to function at our highest potential.
  6. Need to contribute. To give, to help, to serve in some way.

Regardless of your background, age, race, religion or line of work, you are driven by these fundamental human needs. This universal force is a dominant drive behind your feelings, motivations and actions.

Awareness Helps

Since human beings exist on both the physical and spiritual plane, some needs are more pertinent to the physical realm and others to the spiritual one. The first three items in the human needs hierarchy are primal human needs that, when satisfied, help you function with comfort in the physical realm. Once these basic needs have been met, you can then focus on the last three needs, which pertain to the spiritual category or your true self.

Being aware of the needs hierarchy doesn’t make you ‘needy’ (unless you act needy)! You will be more compassionate if you remain aware of the fact that every moment you are—and everyone around you is—trying to satisfy individual physical, psychological and spiritual needs.

The importance of each need category differs for different people and conflicting needs may cause intra- and interpersonal problems. For instance: No, you are not crazy if:

  • your well-paid job didn’t make you feel significant and valued and you decided to resign and do something else
  • your successful business doesn’t bring you a sense of meaning and purpose and you want to stop and start something else
  • your need for self-actualization may not be welcomed or understood by a friend or a partner

Awareness, patience and understanding of the natural progression of your needs over time, as well as respect for other people’s needs, will help you to be more tolerant and have a healthy attitude and balanced state of mind.

You create your life by choosing your attitude, developing a personal philosophy and deciding on your actions. Jim Rohn wrote, “Activity, attitude and philosophy create results.”

If you are not pleased with the results in your life, the most important and effective levers you have at your disposal to change the results are those three – your attitude, your personal philosophy and your actions.

*Some is text taken from my book, “A Shift Toward Purpose: Secrets to an Amazing Career” – coming soon on Amazon.

With Love and Gratitude,


About the Author

Millen is a Wealth architect and Financial Independence Coach, entrepreneur, and a bestselling author. Being a Possibilities' Catalyst, she uses her intuition, business, and investment expertise to support entrepreneurial women (like you) who want to master their money, live their purpose achieve financial prosperity and freedom. With her physics and business education, corporate and entrepreneurial experience, money management know-how, mindfulness practices and transformational coaching skills, Millen has a unique ability to guide and support clients in achieving extraordinary success in their lives.

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