What is it that we’re working for, really?

What are we doing in business, if not fulfilling needs. Essentially that’s what we’re doing, right?

However, sometimes we can be confused about what needs we actually need to meet. The result is a we often neglect to meet our own needs and miss opportunities in our businesses that become available when we begin to meet these deeper needs for our stakeholders.


So, what are the needs are we talking about?

As the business owners or leaders, we generally see our primary need as being for profit. Our customers ideally have a need for our product. Our employees have a need for a job for money. So it seems, at a very simple level, business is about meeting basic needs through money.

The assumption seems to be everyone involved will all adequately meet their own deeper needs given enough money and resources in their own time, and through their own activity. So, the job of business is to supply an adequate flow of money and people will then use that money to meet their deeper needs as they see fit.


However, does this work?

How many of us know completely miserable people with tons of money? How many of us have homes bursting with stuff and yet are stressed with the lack of money in our accounts? What about work environments where people are paid, but not respected or cared for?


The truth is we often don’t meet our deeper needs, nor even see them as necessary and important.


For the sake of what?

We need to ask the important question of what are we living and working for? Do we live and work for the sake of amassing more money? More security? More experiences? Or, do we live and work for the sake of joy? For the sake of serving others?

For the sake of what? It’s a good question for all of us to ask, because we will all likely have different answers.


So, what do you want? Happiness? Love? Joy?

At the end of your life, how do you want to be known? As someone who loved well? Or who knew how to make a profit? Who knew how to get stuff done? Or lived in service to others or an ideal?


What’s driving you today?

As useful and necessary as money is, our lives really aren’t about money. Money is a tool and only a tool to meet our actual needs. And yet, it holds the focus of most of our attention.

So, what are these actual needs? And what needs do we need to meet for others to be a good steward in our families, businesses, and communities?

Here’s my list of needs for a fulfilling life adventure, though there are a lot of items that could be added and debated. However, a person who felt full in all these areas, I’m guessing they’d say they have a pretty good life.

My list:

  • Health
  • Meaningful connection
  • Integration with community
  • Meaning and sense of purpose
  • Security
  • Opportunities for expression and learning
  • Fun and play
  • Dignity
  • Access to beauty
  • Experiences of the sublime


So, the question is are we meeting our own needs in these deep ways? Or are we assuming that we will live a good life given enough money or stuff?


What about work?

Are we speaking to these deeper needs at our businesses? Do our companies address these needs through our products and service elements for our customers? Do we address these needs for our employees? Are we meeting our deeper needs at work?

Of course, we can’t meet these needs for people, of course. That is their own work, but we can be a part of meeting these needs in the context of our organizations.

What becomes possible when we do?



When we limit our work to mere transactions, true loyalty and engagement are already gone. Everyone is focused on “getting what’s theirs” and nothing more, because there’s nothing else to get.

However, when an organization makes space for these needs for their employees, real relationships and community develop. People become engaged. They care whether a place lives or dies, because it is part of their well-being and they bring more of their talent and passion to work.

The same is true for customers. When I had my last company, community and well-being was the focus of all decisions. While I couldn’t speak to everyone’s deep needs, we did enough to create a sense of community that was palpable and important in people’s lives. Customers and employees a part of something that was nurturing for everyone. Our employee retention was unheard of for the industry and never had to advertise for employees. People were lined up to work with us. Our customers were family to us and us to them. We were a part of weddings and funerals, watching babies grow. People showed up, for themselves and each other. And that all meant a growing business, with many people invested, caring, and watching out for the whole.


So, what is possible?

The question of what is possible is worthy of far more exploration. There are examples of companies who are doing amazing work while thriving, in large part because of how they meet the deeper needs of their communities, employees, and customers. So, we’ll be exploring these ideas further.

But in the meantime, here’s some questions to consider for yourself:

  • What’s on your list of deep needs?
  • What are you living for? How do you want to be known?
  • Are you meeting your needs?
  • Are you addressing these needs for others? In your work? In your family and community?
  • What might you do to begin meeting these needs for yourself?
  • What would be possible if you began addressing these needs in your organization? Do new products/services come to mind? How would these changes impact your employees?
  • What are your pain points at work? What good would emerge if you invited others to help meet your needs? For yourself? For your employees?
  • Who can you ask for help?