We spend a lot of time at work. Even when we are not at work, we are often thinking about our work. Conservatively the majority of us in North America will spend fifty years or more of our life devoting 8+ hours a day, five days a week, to something other than our own personal interests or time spent with our loved ones in the pursuit of paid employment. That is an enormous investment; bigger than the mortgages/loans we will carry over our lifetime. There is a quid pro quo here, working life supports our needs in our personal lives, but it may also impact the quality of our well being, and the well being of those to whom we are the closest, when we end up in a place where compromise is the only path forward. It is worth reflecting on what our working life is providing, and what it is not – and I am not talking salary here.
Does your working life support you in meaningful ways? Sure, we can go to work and tell ourselves that it’s just a few hours, and that our “real” lives are there for us the minute we leave the office. We can rationalize that NOT being employed is worse than working in a job that is less than nurturing. But that’s not entirely true is it? When we have to manufacture the will power to go to work every day, to do the work assigned to us in a way that won’t compromise our ability to remain employed, then it doesn’t matter that our real life is waiting for us as we head home because there is little energy left to enjoy it. It becomes an unforgiving treadmill where we are working hard just to maintain the status quo and unable to enjoy what it is we are working for in the first place. Karl Marx is quoted as saying “…if you are cut off from the fruits of your labour, from your creativity, then you lose your sense of self.”. Are you cut off from the fruits of your labour? Have you lost your sense of self?
Contrast this to working in a role or organization where you can be your best (flaws and all), where you can contribute in meaningful ways and the energy is just there. Everyday isn’t perfect (far from it) but in the grand scheme of things you are coming out ahead because you are able to be engaged, valued…you know how you contribute and are nurtured by your work – and you have a working schedule that compliments (not sabotages) the other important aspects of your life. In this scenario you are not working to remain employed, but because it is interesting, challenging, engaging and meaningful.
This is no longer just working, but living!
When we can both live our life and work at the same time there is a synergy present that pays real dividends - allowing us to enjoy our whole life. This outcome is possible for anyone who wants it but it is not the easiest path; it demands knowing your self-worth, your courage, and making your needs known (to start, make them clear to yourself).
What kind of life would you like to experience during this long period of time when you will be working? What are you working for?