Dana LaMon

Motivational Speaker and Author


I sat down in the first seat behind the driver, getting comfortable for my two-hour ride to work when I found myself as an eavesdropper on a conversation between two women. I don't know their names, so I'll call them Jean and Gayle.

Gayle, sitting across the aisle from me said, "Mine is a light grayish green. Sometimes when you look at it, it looks gray, but when the sun shines directly on it, it's green."

"Mine is too," Jean, sitting directly behind me, responded excitedly.

For a split second I considered injecting my comments into the conversation because my Ford Windstar minivan, based on my wife's description, was the same color. I felt like conversation that morning and would have gladly shared my experiences with the Ford Windstar, which I had purchased in December 2000.

Jean then spoke again and immediately made my contribution to the conversation insignificant. "It's the second jag that I bought. I just had to have me another one."

I was grateful for my hesitation to get into another's conversation uninvited. It saved me a great deal of embarrassment.

I immediately saw what I believed to be a sad irony in that these two women were starting what would probably be a thirteen-hour commute-and-work day on a bus so that they could afford to have parked in their garages an expensive car. As I began to set up my su doku board to work a puzzle on my way to work, I mused about when Jean and Gayle would drive their jags. Not to work obviously. To church maybe? To the grocery store? Just to some special event? Was it worth getting up at five o'clock each day to go to work?

Why are you working at your job?


Making a living is likely the greatest barrier to your living meaningfully. If the only reason that you are day after day going to work for someone else or in your own business is to have an income, you are methodically building a wall that separates the life that you are living from the one you are supposed to live. Making a living can get in the way of your living with purpose in several ways.

  1. Making a living can make money the reason for your being. In a money-based economy, you must make money to purchase your necessities of life--food, clothing, shelter, health care, transportation. Once you are assured enough money to provide the basics for today, you look to the future. A little more money and you won't have to worry about what you'll eat, what you'll wear, and where you'll sleep tomorrow. With just a bit more money, you can supersize it. Eat more; eat out; eat steak instead of beans. No more secondhand or hand-me-downs; buy the best clothes. Why rent a one-bedroom apartment when you can own the three-bedroom house. Sarah Jones has a new car, why shouldn't you get one too. You don't have the money to buy one? Get a loan. You can keep working to pay it off. As your debt for today's wants mount, you look for a different job that pays more. And the cycle continues.

    Wait a minute. There are future needs ... wants. What are they now? You have to save money for the kid's college ... for your retirement. Gosh! You'll have to make more money so that what you stash away for retirement will support you at the level to which you have become accustom. Take the job. So what if you hate it. The money's good and it has good benefits--health and pension. If you could just pick the right six numbers, you wouldn't have to work. It's all about the money.

  2. Making a living can distract you from your purpose to give and to serve. To be successful at making a living, as success is viewed by the general population, you must put yourself into a get- and-accumulate mode. You'll get up early in the morning, you'll take a two-hour commute on the train, and/or you'll fight the traffic into town because your reward will be to get more for you and your family. To put forth this effort for the purpose of giving to and/or serving another person, might be the last thing you'd consider. In fact, you might even feel in competition with everyone else who is also struggling to survive, so giving or helping them would work against your self interest.

  3. Making a living can cause you to waste life on meaningless pursuits. If you have a job at which you spend eight hours a day five days a week, you have devoted to that job a third of your life. This assertion takes into account the time it takes to prepare for work and the commute time. Another one third of your life may be devoted to sleeping. You have just a third of your life remaining to devote to all other activities and endeavors including family interaction, social gathering, church, community, spiritual and personal development, and financial and legal matters. In which third of your life do you have time to discover and fulfill your purpose? When it comes to dedicating life to various activities, it is a zero-sum game. Giving more time to one activity requires taking away time from another. If the work you have chosen as a way to make a living is not meaningful, you have devoted a significant part of your life to meaninglessness.

  4. Making a living can undermine your priorities. Living with purpose requires that purpose be the leading consideration in all that you choose to do. If money, not purposefulness, is the reason you took the job you have, your priorities have been hijacked. It is no wonder that you reach a crisis point in your life when you wake up to the fact that life has no meaning for you. Meaning was not a priority and it continued to lose rank as other things captured your attention.

  5. Making a living can stifle creativity. The rote of getting up, going to work, coming home, sleeping, and getting up again to go to work will disengage your mind and imagination. You develop a habit of going to work. Your car may seem to be on automatic driver and gets you to your work site without your thinking about where you are going and how you are getting there. If your mind and imagination are not engaged, there can be no creativity. Similarly, creativity may be lacking because you haven't time for it. You have filled your day up with too much stuff to take the time to think, engage, reflect, and imagine.

  6. Making a living can cause you to live outside your purpose. If you are not working to give and serve as your creator endowed you to do, you have devoted your life to living outside your purpose. You might gain a benefit from what you do, but you lose the greater benefit of what you were supposed to do. The universe loses as a result.

  7. Making a living can dull your sensitivity to the needs of others. If you are operating on the get-and-accumulate mode and your soul is not engaged, you will not be able to feel the empathy that prompts you to respond to the needs of another person. You begin to believe that it's not your responsibility to care; every man must take individual responsibility and get his own.

You can circumvent the barrier between making a living and living with purpose by setting meaningfulness instead of money as your priority when choosing a job. When you can make both meaning and money from your work, then you are really making a living.