I had a middle school teacher in Germany who told us that he merely goes to work in order to enjoy life when he goes home at 1:30pm (1:30pm - shit, why didn't I become a teacher?). He definitely taught like that and appeared fairly happy with this arrangement.
Right now all Stanford kids are off doing their internships, testing out hypotheses they have about certain jobs and discovering more and more about what they want to do after school. Very few of them say that they want to work in order to live. Usually work has a much more important place in their future lives. Having impact, changing the world for the better, working on a social cause, steering the ship of global business, creating a legacy etc etc etc.
I have been reflecting on this topic for a while now. In the end I will have to carve out characteristics according to which I ultimately decide for a certain job. Besides the potential to have impact there are more differentiating factors though: pay, vacation days, hours to work, big vs small team, big vs small company, flat vs hierarchical, specific vs general, non profit vs for profit, brand perception, travel.
For myself I have found out that another big factor is recognition. Yes, ultimately I want to make the world a better place and I want to impact many people and I want to leave a footprint that will be remembered even after my time. But I want others to see that. It would be very difficult for me to drive change without anyone ever recognizing it and without having someone to come up to me and tell me that I am doing a great job. I have always liked to be in the spotlight and on stage. I want that also at my work.
I find that thoughts and motivations like that are generally perceived as rather negative. Does it improve society if I get my share of attention? - No. But it makes me enjoy work and motivates me to continue driving that change everyone talks about.
To close, I want to say that even though my teacher might not have instilled great work ethic, he showed us a different side of life. Ultimately it is a fine line between private and work life. Both have to be balanced and give you satisfaction. I feel that if I cut back too much on one side it has impact on both. And usually impact for the worse.
Cheers + bis bald,