Are you stuck in the endless tug of war between a role that earns you a lot of money and one that makes your heart sing?

We get several emails a week from people struggling with the question of money versus purpose. Individuals of every age want to know how to land an impactful role that will also pay them well. Should they go into a high-paying, but unfulfilling field, stick through it to earn some cash, and then do what they want? This is a tradeoff most of us think about as we plot out our careers and the decisions that impact our future.

But your relationship to money is not consistent

In our own lives, and in supporting others making the transition to more purposeful work through our programs, we have discovered that our relationship with money changes dramatically. When you are doing what you love, money is no longer so directly linked to your happiness.

If you are happy from nine to five, you will not need the big salary you think you can’t survive without. Retail therapy? Not so much. 55-inch TV? Not really. Vacation in Italy? Definitely (you won’t change that much!). But you will be surprised by how much less you will require because you’ll no longer need to silence your inner sorrows with random shopping sprees and extravagant purchases when you love what you do.

With purposeful work comes awareness and a desire to re-evaluate not only how you spend your money, but also how you spend your time, your intentions, and ultimately, your life.

Don’t believe us? Numerous studies support the notion that happiness only increases with money up to a point. One study highlighted recently in USA Today found that number to be $105,000 annually. Another study found it to be a more manageable $75,000. After that, there is no measurable effect on day-to-day happiness. 

With purposeful work comes awareness and a desire to re-evaluate not only how you spend your money, but also how you spend your time, your intentions, and ultimately, your life.

But what about healthcare and student loans?!?!

We’re not saying this is the only conversation you’ll have around money and jobs. Every individual situation differs. Family, healthcare costs, and other considerations can come into play. Depending on the stage in your life, you’ll find yourself at times needing more or less money (see our co-founder Jeff’s tradeoff example below). But the one key variable most people don’t recognize when thinking about the ‘money versus purpose’ tradeoff is that the role money plays in your life changes.

Project X co-founder’s tradeoff between money and purpose

If you’re unhappy in your role now, money is simply a way to justify staying in. It’s a signal to those around us: “Look! I’ve made it. I drive a nice car and wear the latest gadgets.” It is a way to patch up the dark hole that quietly grows inside when the work we do doesn’t excite us or makes us feel alive.

Money will become important in new ways

Perhaps you didn’t really budget when you had your soul-sucking job. Perhaps your expensive apartment was a gem not to be questioned. When you make a courageous decision to quit your six-figure consulting grind and become a travel writer, money will be top of mind often enough (and ideally you don’t go into travel writing if your goal is to become a millionaire!). But it won’t be a measure of status, a treasure to be spent mindlessly. Instead, it will be a tool which you’ll budget more carefully. 

When you do purposeful work, money will not be as important to you as it is now. But we can’t convince you. You’ve got to believe it yourself, trust your abilities and intentions, and know that the work that makes your heart sing will be far more valuable to you than the paycheck you are receiving every two weeks.