Let’s face it, sometimes work sucks. If you’re doing something that feels like work, if it’s a grind just to get through the day, then work feels terrible. Other times work can be rewarding and challenging and fulfilling. But why do we invest so much time at work? Why do we devote everything we are to it?
For most of us, we can get disheartened and disillusioned if we’re punching a time card and our heart isn’t in it. We can lose our souls doing mindless jobs that don’t progress humanity in any meaningful way.
And when we get caught in that role, what are we doing?
If you look at most Americans, at least those fortunate to even have a job, they have a tendency to work themselves to the bone. They get home after a long day and want nothing more than to consume mindless entertainment until they pass out on the couch or chair. They get up the next day and do it all over again. Endlessly. We all know someone (or we are someone) who works all the time or prefers to work six or seven days a week. Those people are always on. They can’t separate work from their life. They are defined by it. They live to work.
They see their life as a sum of their productivity. They view the world through the lens of their work.
Now there is nothing wrong at all about dedicating to your work or craft. If you have the skill and knowledge to increase the productivity of your chosen profession and create a meaningful contribution to it, that’s a wonderful thing to pursue. But what if you’re only slagging away at it, day in and day out, wearing yourself down until you no longer recognize who you are?
What about working to live?
At the end of life, I’m certain my regrets might be that I wish I’d spent more time with my family. That I’d wished I spent more time pursuing nobler things. Will it be that I wished I worked harder or longer? No! I dare say very few people hope to come to the end of their life wishing they’d worked more and spent less time furthering the knowledge and ability of humanity.
I realize these views are idealistic. I understand reality gets in the way. Bills have to be paid. Certain qualities of life are hard to get away from. But does that mean we have to set aside all thoughts of a higher calling because money dictates our actions?
There’s a commercial out now that sums up this line of thought. In it an older man is talking to his son and chastises him for selling all his possessions and quitting his job only to travel across the country. When his son confirms his accusation, he tells him “I wish I’d done that.” He doesn’t say “I wish I’d worked more to afford a larger car.”
That commercial demonstrates this idea of working to live perfectly. We are happiest when we aren’t living to work. (Please note I’m not endorsing the car company.)
Think about what you do. Think about what you spend your valuable time with. We don’t get those minutes back. The more time we spend working at something that feels like work instead of being fulfilled by it, we are robbing ourselves of a greater enjoyment in life.