Why do we work? And what do we expect in return? I've been wrestling with this topic on a regular basis over the past few months. I wrote recently about a valuable lesson I learned in grad school from Joel Peterson, a business heavyweight who's been lecturing at Stanford since 1992. Peterson's final lecture was a summary of his accumulated wisdom, and I refer back to my notes from that lecture on a regular basis. Another concept of his that resonates with me is this spectrum of reasons for working and what we obtain in exchange. (Here's a larger version of the graph above, and here's a one-page PowerPoint, 98 KB.)
Peterson essentially used this concept to pose two challenges to the class. First, he asked us explicitly, "If you're not where you want to be, what can you do to get there?"
But he also implicitly challenged us to keep pushing further to the right: "Don't settle for work that's merely rewarding; find what you love to do and do it. Don't settle for superficial good feelings; strive for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose."