We take it for granted that work must be a major part of our lives—in fact, for many of us, life is focused on it. We define ourselves, and everyone around by the work we do, by our job roles. “So what do you do?”. And no prize for guessing that happiness is measured by how successful one is in his/her work.
Average of 70 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, since past 5 years—not including extra work hours and the time I spent resting from the exertions of my work life and changing my employers!
That was me! Yes you read it correct, WAS!
Coz I could no longer lie to me when I asked myself, “Is this really what my life should be all about?.”
Of course, I was fortunate to have jobs which were fulfilling, stimulating, challenging and which suited my innate skills. In my case, my job provided me the feeling of being alive, doing something with my life, intense stimulation of my grey cells. But still I chose to make the move from being employed to being unemployed and in a way still empowering myself, I had to argue with inner self and come to the conclusion that despite my job providing me the ‘flow’, work should just be an aspect of my life, rather than its defining feature.
Fortunately there’s something or the other on my plate to keep me occupied and going but not a single day passes on without self doubt. There are days when I haven’t stepped out of home or haven’t felt the warmth of the sun. Every Monday I miss the Monday Blues! And my receding bank balance tempts me to take up any job offer on the table!
But I had realised and had come to a conclusion that working relentlessly for days which stretches into years makes our lives narrow and constricted… I had we lost sight of adventure. There’s so much to learn in life, so many different ways to develop, so many experiences to absorb, so many activities to enjoy (including doing nothing), but while we spend so much time working and the fear of not letting the job go that it’s difficult to find time and energy for these.
The Origins of Work
History tells us that human beings lived as hunter-gatherers and their ‘main work’ was to simply to find for food. Work as we know it is a relatively modern activity. Life only really became difficult once our ancestors started farming followed by industrial revolution which involved labour, more work hours and extreme land/climate conditions and appalling wages.
Working conditions are infinitely better now, of course, at least in more economically developed parts of the world but we’re still living with the legacy of the industrial revolution, with a mistaken idea that work defines us and should be the primary pursuit of our lives. We’re still living as economic objects whose main value is what we can produce.
So,what’s the alternative, you might ask? If we didn’t work so hard, our economies would fail, and we would all be living in poverty. But this isn’t necessarily the case. In continental Europe, working hours are significantly shorter than in the US and the UK, and productivity is actually higher. Countries like Holland and Denmark are actually more economically successful than the US or the UK. Working less does not mean economic failure – the opposite may be the case. It may be that longer working hours just makes people tired and resentful, and therefore less productive.
And in any case, perhaps we need to rethink our whole relationship to economics. The modern emphasis on work is completely out of proportion, and harmful to our well-being.
One thing is for sure: if you spend nearly all your waking hours working, then it doesn’t matter whether you’re a millionaire businessman or a financial analyst, you’re not really so different from a 19th century factory worker whose life only has value in terms of the labour you produce. The only difference is that you have the freedom to change and to make your life more meaningful and fulfilling.
P.S : Blogged after a year and gotta admit it feels good & I love the new, clean updated #Wordpress