Is Chasing a Salary Keeping You Poor?

work by Karl Bedingfield of Flickr
work by Karl Bedingfield of Flickr

Ask someone to tell you how a job enables them to live the lifestyle they want and many people will reply with a good salary, a 40-hour work week, health benefits, a retirement plan, and a steady rise in pay. This job usually does not incorporate following their passions, as most people are taught to value safe and uninteresting over doing what they really love.

A major twentieth century work myth is that landing a job at a company and working from 9 to 5 will cement job security and stability. This was the best way to ensure that one could afford their desired lifestyle. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy. It does not exist and no company can offer such security. Individuals must take it upon themselves to learn the life skills to navigate today’s job market (we teach these skills through our Dream Job Breakthrough System) in order to generate their OWN job security. The reality is that like most people, you will be looking for another job in one to five years. The Millionaire Next Door brings up some interesting facts: “Self-employment in ‘dull’ industries and living below your means seems to be the way most millionaires achieve their wealth, and they have far fewer worries than the financially ‘underperforming.’”

The takeaway is that if you spend your professional life chasing a salary, this action could keep you poor. Instead, pursue what you love and the lifestyle you want will follow.


Your mindset matters

When you pursue your interests, you are doing what you really love and as a result you are fully engaged. As John Williams writes in Screw Work, Let’s Play, “You can’t really excel at something when your heart isn’t in it, so if you do want to get rich, choose something that feels more like play than work. It makes good business sense; you can’t compete with someone who loves what they do.” If you are completing a task and you are completing it just to finish it because it is something you have to do, you will see some results. That said, those results will not compare with the results of someone who completes the task with joy. They are completing the task with the mindset that they GET to do the task, not that they HAVE to do the task. This is a mindset of gratitude. In his article, Contributing Editor Geoffrey James wrote about the power of gratitude. People who approach their lives with a sense of gratitude have a constant awareness of what is wonderful. In turn, they enjoy the results of their success and seek out more success. Additionally, when faced with setbacks, grateful people can put their failures into perspective.

If you are passionate about your work, it does not feel like work. If you are enjoying what you do, it is easier to remain engaged and overcome challenges. Just imagine being passionate about your work each waking day. You are more creative, more motivated, and willing go further in your career to achieve success. Even in times of boredom, you still love the process and find it easier to complete tasks as a result. Furthermore, your passion will enable you to grow and to learn new skills and take on more responsibility.


Are you choosing a salary over happiness?

Do you REALLY want to spend your life doing what you tolerate or dislike? If you tolerate your job because it brings stable pay, health insurance and other benefits, you may be assuming that you cannot have benefits AND have a job that fulfills you. Sacrificing your happiness and passion may seem like a small price to pay for stability. However, feeling stuck in a career you are not excited about may lead to a death-like life. Spending too much time at a disliked job is often one of the regrets of the dying. Over time you find you lack the passion to enjoy what you love and become stuck in a cycle of “good enough.” In this state of mind, it becomes difficult to find the motivation to grow and to improve. If you are not constantly growing and improving, you are stagnating, which means a lower earning potential, especially if you tend to shy away from risks.

This may bleed into other areas of your life. Suddenly, you have lost that loving feeling for life! Stagnation is a threat because it is harder to find the motivation to learn new skills to take on new responsibilities, a new position and potentially more income. When people are stagnant, they lose their vigor, they feel older, age faster, feel less valuable, and ultimately make less money. That means struggling more to take care of the big things such as house renovations, the kids’ college tuition and having to work into your older years, instead of enjoying retirement. Dr. Abigail Brenner writes in Psychology Today that stepping out of your comfort zone (i.e., the safe and familiar) is essential for growth. The irony is heartbreaking because isn’t financial stability reason why people chase salary over their passions? It is a fallacy. As Jim Carrey said, “you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance with what you do want.”

Consider the bigger picture– you simply do not know how much time you may have left on this Earth. In April 2014 I had two conversations that represented two different views of work. One was that it is okay to not to be inspired by your job, as long as you can do what you love during your free time. In another conversation, I was reminded of the possibilities when people spend their invaluable time using their talents and applying their passion. Not long after those conversations, I received the terrible news that my nephew had passed. Losing someone so young and so suddenly reinforced the idea we may not have until tomorrow to pursue our passions.


When you only work for a salary and you have no passion for your job, you run the risk of becoming trapped in a vicious cycle. You spend 40 or more hours at a job you do not like because you think it brings stability to your life, but most are finding they are just keeping their heads above the water. Instead of finding happiness, there is just anxiety and stress. It is not long before unhappiness, disengagement, and stagnation arrive. Why not work toward your passion now? Imagine being in love with your job. When work is your passion it becomes easier to grow, to take risks, and to ultimately trust that the money will follow.


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