Finding Meaning in Our Work – Balancing Paycheck and Purpose

Let’s be honest, sometimes we simply don’t want to get out of bed and go to work.

Maybe it’s been a tough week, month, or even longer. Possibly the challenges we face in long term care have finally hit home, and we’re questioning is it really worth it? I think we have all had days like that, the real question is what will we do about it?

Over the years I’ve had jobs that I really loved, and frankly those I didn’t like at all. Roles that played into my strengths and others that seemed to suck all the strength I had out of me. It became a struggle simply to face each new day.

Looking back, I realized these roles had two things in common; my view of the role, and my attitude toward the role. It was a simple reality – was I working only for the paycheck, or because I felt purpose in my being there? Let’s take a fresh look at each of these. Maybe you can relate to my experience.

Working for the paycheck alone:

We all want to get paid what we’re worth. With pressure around reimbursement and wage controls in long term care, getting paid what we’re worth presents a challenge different than in other healthcare settings. It’s been known for many years that we are attracted to serve in long term care for much more than simply the paycheck, yet we struggle with the disparity that the market place brings. There must be more to than just the pursuit of a paycheck, there must be a higher calling or purpose.

In the world of strategic thought there is a term referred to as ‘the long game’. It defines the ability to look beyond a simple, short term gain, and focus our energies on a longer, more significant payoff. When we focus on the weekly paycheck to determine our worth, and attempt to find happiness via that paycheck, we are really playing ‘the short game’. This approach doesn’t allow for plans that have a more meaningful and significant impact on those we serve (and ultimately our own self-worth and happiness).

Finding purpose in our work, playing the ‘long game’:

Playing the long game is hard. It requires us to be patient and wise with ourselves as well as those we work with. The long game doesn’t allow for short term thinking and the roles and relationships that accompany it. To be successful the long game must tap into our personal purpose, or ‘personal why’. By focusing on this personal purpose, and remaining true to our personal why, we can navigate the challenges at work, and relationships present, all in pursuit of a higher calling and greater good.

Isn’t that really the reason we came to, and choose to stay in long term care? Yes, we want to be recognized financially by what we do, and yes, we have personal financial responsibilities to meet, but in truth would we really be happy making a bit more money and remaining uncommitted and miserable? For most of us I think not.

So how can we start to focus on our purpose and not just our paycheck?

First, we need to accept this will not be easy. There will be days when we seem to be in reverse more that drive, moving backward more than forward, but I’m here to tell you that it can be done.

Step 1: Define your purpose. Remember how you came to long term care and why you stay. Write it down, describe how it made you feel, own it and be prepared to share your journey.

Step 2: Recommit to the field of aging services, your role in long term care and the organization you are currently associated with. Stop wondering what it would be like somewhere else and start making a difference where you are.

Step 3: Focus on your purpose, not just the paycheck. Start playing the long game and seek more opportunities to serve and be an impact. With your co-workers, residents, families and even employers. Get out of your head, and lead with your heart.

The simple question is what will you choose to do now? Some will dismiss this as simplistic hype, others will choose to take deeper look, a deeper dive if you will, and find the meaning within.

It’s time to pursue our purpose, the paycheck will simply help you keep score.

Bill Shell, CPC |

Bill Shell, Business Strategist and Certified Professional Coach is CEO of Bill is passionate about the success of long term care and empowering leaders and teams to achieve success. He has over 30 years of experience in starting, growing and managing companies, organizations and leadership teams.