Accompanying spouse and career – what’s the motivation?

Why do we work?  What makes us want to work?  And what makes us feel sad when we don’t work?

In today’s economic reality, some of us may answer above questions with a simple “I have to put food on the table and provide for my family” answer.  And while this is a very valid point, I am not going to focus on money being the reason for work in this blog post.  Instead, I want to talk about what motivates us to have professional lives.

For many an expat – and here I mean the accompanying spouses – the reality is such that we don’t have to work.  Don’t have as in don’t-have-the-necessity-of-having-the-additional-income-in-the-family for the family to live comfortably.  Yet many of us long to have a professional life abroad, especially if we had to leave out jobs behind, when we moved.

So what motivates us to long for it?

  • Desire to grow?
  • Habit?
  • Fears (like the fear of not having something to do with our time or the fear of not being enough or the fear of being perceived as someone lazy or the fear of losing ourselves)?

How often do we really know what’s motivating us?  How often do we take the time to find out?

The reason I bring this up is that sometimes we want to work for all the wrong reasons – and we suffer internally (if we cannot work) for all the wrong reasons.  So until we shine a bright light on our real motivators for wanting work, we’ll continue holding onto the old habits and old attitudes towards work, even if those are not working out for us.

Here is one exercise to help you learn your real motivators for wanting a professional life:

I.  Answer the following questions:

  • What is important to me about having a job?
  • What is important to me about having a career path/professional life?
  • What do I look for in my professional life?  Without the presence of what will my professional life lack meaning?
  • What’s disconcerting about not having a job?
  • What’s disconcerting about not having a career?

2.  All humans can divided into those who mainly get motivated by away factors, those that mainly get motivated by toward factors, and those who get motivated by both.  The away factors sound similar to this:

  • “I want to work so that I don’t have to ask my spouse for spending money.”
  • “I am working so that I am never going to be poor.”
  • “I am starting a new business so that no one can say I am doing nothing with my time.”

The toward factors sound similar to this:

  • “I want to work so that I can buy myself whatever I want.”
  • “I am looking for a new job so that I can get more challenged.”
  • “I want my own business so that I can be my own boss and can be as creative as I want.”

Looking at your answers to questions above, gauge whether or not you are motivated mainly by away factors, towards factors, or both.  Usually the away factors, while having a place in our lives, don’t last and are not as compelling as the toward factors.  The away factors display our saboteur thinking and provide a negative-energy-filled pull towards having a career.  How valid is that thinking in your life now?  And what would you be without that thinking?

So what is at the heart of you wanting to work and have a career overseas?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Trailing and not failing: how our relationships sustain us in expatriation?

What do expats need to stay?

Expat entrepreneur? Who is your ideal client?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

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4 responses to “Accompanying spouse and career – what’s the motivation?

  1. If you’re the partner who’s career is likely to involve relocating, you should to embrace a broader definition of the word “career.” For example, it need not be limited to paid employment, but can include further education, research, unpaid and volunteer work. For many accompanying partners who don’t have paid work, the challenge is to define who you are (to yourself and to others) and find a purpose in life. If you can do this then you have found your career, on a much more fundamental level.

  2. I guess it comes down to what is meaningful for us and what makes us feel fulfilled. Income doesn’t have to be a part of this and wasn’t for quite a long time for me, as I studied my way through two relocations. Studying gave me a purpose and a direction so I totally agree with your comment Judy.

  3. Since first commenting I’ve read Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” which is all about motivation. For those who haven’t read it, it’s not a “motivation” book, it’s about the science of what motivates people, and is very illuminating. Looking back on the period as an expatriate when I wasn’t doing paid work, it’s interesting to analyse why I chose to do the things I did. I realize now it was a very valuable period when I could discover a lot about myself – what I was good at and what I truly enjoyed doing.

  4. globalcoachcenter

    Thank you, Judy and Louise, for sharing your experiences (and thank you for the book recommendation, Judy)! I just finished reading a book by Lynne Twist (The Soul of Money) and, although it’s not about the motivation per se, it is about our relationship with money and how that relationship affects everything we do — including our motivation. Highly recommended!

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