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Why financial gain always comes last

Whether choosing between job offers, work projects, business connections or personal relationships, I consider a few things and financial gain always – always – comes last on my list of things to consider.

How many times have I heard that I’m unreasonably not focusing on material things? Many times. As if I live to be called reasonable.

Once I deliberately chose to take up an assignment with a very toxic project team. My personal goal was to test my mental resilience and my toxicity threshold, e.g. observe how and when my behaviour starts slowly changing to adapt to toxic circumstances. That was my personal goal number 1. And no, I didn’t tell my boss about it. My goal number 2 was to help the team, or those least toxic in the team, to achieve their business goals. Honestly, I did care. And financial gain came as number 3 for me.

What came out of that experience? I’ve grown my self-confidence and I know myself much better now, I’ve built a reputation of a very resilient person in my professional circles, I’ve achieved the business goals by the way, and I’ve built three long-lasting friendships, including one with my boss who was so grateful I carried on with the assignment. Again, I got some financial gain out of all that, but shouldn’t financial gain be a given for any good work anyway?

Now I’m not saying that I’m not considering financial gain at all. Of course, I do. It’s just that it comes last on my list of considerations which goes something like this:

1. Life goals

Does the offer/project/connection/relationship serve my longer-term life goal? Does it take me, at least one step, closer to what I’m striving to achieve in the longer term?

For example, if my goal is to have a happy marriage, why marry an asshole, even if I feel in love with him? Love comes and goes, assholes stay assholes, well, more often than not. If my goal is to have varied fast paced work dealing with people why take up a boring technical work assignment even if it pays well?

One could argue though – what if someone’s life goals only focus on buying a new faster car and having a bigger house? Well, this person is highly unlikely to be even reading this blog post. But if they do read it, they should know that one day getting another car becomes boring and unsatisfying. That’s when it’s time to start thinking about broader life goals and personal happiness. What brings happiness to you?

2. Personal values

Does the offer align with my personal values? Is there a risk of sacrificing my self-esteem, self-respect and reputation in the longer run? If I decide to make sacrifices, how much am I prepared to sacrifice, for how long and why in the first place?

The problem with any sacrifice is that it slowly but steadily rids us of self-respect and erodes our self-confidence. We no longer understand what we want in life and what we’re worth. We don’t understand who we really are. Any sacrifice is just not worth it.

3. Personal growth

Does the offer contribute to my personal growth? Will I learn something new or develop a new desired skill or build a new useful relationship? And when I say ‘useful relationship’, I don’t mean financial gain again. Ideally my personal growth and my new skills should be aligned to my life goals and personal values. Ideally.

4. Financial (material) gain

There must be a certain threshold that I’d not cross under any circumstances no matter how tempting the offer might be in terms of aligning with my goals, values and growth.

In relationships, this probably doesn’t apply as much, but there’s still some materiality to relationships. For example, how much of my time, energy and emotions am I prepared to give to another person if they aren’t giving back to me as much? I consider all these material things – as material as money. And I’m not prepared to waste them on someone who isn’t giving back as much. And if I do, I think carefully why I choose to do so – perhaps because I have so much that I can freely share?

What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us. --Julia Cameron
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