Is Getting Paid to Do What You Love All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Drawing on stairs

David McRaney writes:

The Misconception: There is nothing better in the world than getting paid to do what you love.

The Truth: Getting paid for doing what you already enjoy will sometimes cause your love for the task to wane because you attribute your motivation as coming from the reward, not your internal feelings.

If you pay people to complete puzzles instead of paying them for being smart, they lose interest in the game. If you pay children to draw, fun becomes work. Payment on top of compliments and other praise and feeling good about personal achievement are powerful motivators, but only if they are unexpected. Only then can you continue to tell the story that keeps you going; only then can you still explain your motivation as coming from within.

Consider the story you tell yourself about why you do what you do for a living. How vulnerable is that tale to these effects?

You Are Not So Smart: The Overjustification Effect

Interesting stuff. I wonder if this is part of why self-employed people are happier even though self-employment is far more stressful than working for hire?

(Photo by Bo Nielsen)


  1. getting paid to do something you don’t care about is great. you can walk away any time, but as long as you don’t, you still get paid.

  2. How does this fit in with people who (due to disability, unemployment, inheritance or for other reasons) are given money without working at all? Do they love life more? I’d like to find out.

  3. People are encouraged to “do what they love” so that work will “feel like play,” so that the employers can get away with paying them less money. After all, if you love your work, why would you care whether you get paid or not? You should be willing to do it for free.

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