It seems very logical to think that you can know what a person is worth by what they bring forth (their work). That is, the words a person speaks, the contributions they bring to an agenda, and the roles they play will tell us how useful they are. However, it is not always so; work is not a perfect measure of a person’s worth.
Although a person’s worth can only be expressed through their work, using their work to judge the entirety of their worth is lopsided and that’s what I’m explaining here. Your work is the outlet of your worth but not the definition of it.
But first, it should be understood that the scope of this study is as it pertains to life in general. Of course, a person’s worth to an organisation is determined by how much contribution they’re able to make to the goals of that organisation and that is undisputed. It is also undisputed that worth, in general, is DETERMINED BY A PERSON’S CONTRIBUTION to a certain goal.
So when it comes to life, your worth can only be defined by your level of contribution to the overall goal of life, not just the goal of a fraction of persons. This is where the measurement of worth by work becomes faulty. First, we must know the overall program of life and how we can contribute to it to know how significant any contribution is to it.
I have explained the overall program of life and how you fit into it in here.
Why Work Is Not A True Measure Of Your Worth
1. Potential does not always equal performance
There are so many things that we can do that we just haven’t done. Like Dr. Myles Munroe says, “the wealthiest place in the world is not the gold mines of South America or the oil fields of Iraq or Iran. They are not the diamond mines of South Africa or the banks of the world. The wealthiest place on the planet is just down the road. It is the cemetery. There lie buried companies that were never started, inventions that were never made, bestselling books that were never written, and masterpieces that were never painted. In the cemetery is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.”
Discarding anyone and counting them as worthless because of what they have done means discarding all they could do. We also apply the same principle to our daily lives only that we choose not to do it with humans.
Investors invest in businesses not always because the businesses are worth so much but because they have the potential to become so much. It is agreed that potential can also be measured as what a thing could amount to.
So, since every human has the potential of becoming something valuable, it means every human is valuable with or without their work and should be treated as such.
In fact, it is treating people who have the potential of value with value that aids their value in manifesting. “When we treat a man as he is, we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he were already what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.” -Goethe
2. Valuation of work is relative
Basing worth on work will mean that your worth will vary from place to place and from person to person because people’s valuation of how much work is worth varies, based on their standard of judgement. This again is faulty.
If a person’s worth is defined by how valuable a group of people or an environment sees their work, it means that valuation is not the individual’s actual worth, it is just what was ascribed to them by that environment. Agreeing with that kind of judgement will mean that anyone can choose to call themselves the most valuable and others think they are not valuable because there is no single and uniform measure.
Work can only be a true measure of a person’s worth in life if there is a universal measurement that can tell how much that work is worth; a measure that is not subject to change anywhere. But since there can’t be a universal measure of the worth of work, work is not a true measure of a person’s worth.
3. Perceived impact does not always equal actual impact
It is agreed that a person’s worth is defined by how much contribution they’re able to make to the overall program of life and it seems from the surface that some people are making more impact than others. But that judgement is not always true.
Some minute and irrelevant-looking works can be making the greatest contribution to the fulfillment of the overall program of life while other noisy and pompous works are making no impact. This is very evident in industries.
If you ask the average human to tell who makes more impact between a project supervisor and the construction workers, it would be said that the construction workers are making more impact. However, the supervisor receives higher pay.
Why? Supervisors receiving higher pay than construction workers proves that what is obvious is not always what is. In the same vein, some individuals play other “foundation roles” in life; they are hidden and unappreciated yet, like the supervisor, the strength of the structure depends on them.
Think of a mayor of a city making all the “big” decisions compared to a seventy years old raising hundreds of children in a behind-the-street orphanage and you can understand that when it comes to making an impact and fulfilling the program of life, it is not the “movers and shakers” that move always the needle.
Does this now mean that smaller-looking works are more valuable than the bigger-looking ones? Of course not. It only means that a person’s work does not define their worth.
How then should an individual’s worth be measured? Read this article on how to measure your true worth without external things.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.