December 20, 2011

You Aren’t Working Too Hard.

Chances are, you aren’t working hard enough.

(Photo: loupdargent.com)











 All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?

People love to complain about work. It’s one of our national pastimes. Too hard. Too boring. Hate the boss. Want a vacation. Whenever I see that axiom about no one on his deathbed wishing he had spent more time working, I wince a little bit. If you are doing work you are passionate about, at the end of your days your response should be somewhere between the satisfaction of a job well done, and a wistful wishing you could have helped just a little bit more.

When I talk with people about work related stress, the amount of time they spend on work is rarely the issue. When people are burnt out on work, generally the problem is one of two things.

1. They don’t love their work.

2. They don’t know what to do when they aren’t working.


“I don’t love my work”

There are two possible ways of dealing with this problem: change your job or change your attitude.

So, maybe it’s time to change your job. While some people can pull a Holstee, drop everything and radically change their lives, it isn’t an immediate option for most people. Taking creative steps to move towards a job you love is possible for everyone. What do you daydream about doing? Where does your mind go when it wanders? Chances are you don’t fantasize about more time to sit around watching television. Connect with people in your community and online who love what you love. Make room in your life for the things that excite you. Want to feel tired and drained? Believe that other popular myth that there’s “not enough time” and let your life slip by doing things that don’t inspire you. Instead, be willing to use your free time take steps towards where you want to be. Positive thinking is good; positive actions are even better.

Or maybe, an attitude adjustment is what you need. If you’ve decided that you need to stay where you are, it’s time to change your attitude. No matter what your job, you have the ability to be of benefit. When you begin to view your work as changing the world, it’s hard not to love it. Even if you are washing dishes in a diner, you are making the world a little bit better. I’ve done a variety of jobs over the years. I’ve loved serving coffee, pouring drinks, teaching dance, shoveling horse manure, proofreading and editing, teaching English, working in customer service during the holidays, and I even once did a long term sub for a junior high gym teacher in an urban school. (That last one was tough to love, but made for many funny stories.) When you see how your job is of service to the world,  it can energize you.


“I don’t know what to do when I’m not working.”

Resting your body at the end of a long day is important. Restoring your mind and spirit through meditation and time spent with loved ones is important. But the truth is, if you want to have a meaningful life, you will be busy. Even when you aren’t doing “work” you will still be busy. We are built to be active–body and mind. If you want to be happy, work hard at something you are passionate about and play hard when you aren’t working.

I didn’t have any “work” I needed to do today. I got up, meditated for a half-hour. Did yoga.Worked on forms for a charity I’m hoping to launch this coming year. Cleaned my house. Researched zoning regulations for a property where I’d like to make an animal sanctuary and checked into a few possible grants. Went grocery shopping. Wrote a short story. Took a wonderful friend out for coffee and laughed for nearly an hour straight. Played with my family. Made some peanut brittle for my dad for Christmas. (I even found some time to read elephant journal and write this post.) And it’s 3 p.m. I still have about seven more hours before I meditate again and pack it in for the night.

I don’t say this to say “Wow…look at all I did today!” I say this because I’m ordinary. It’s Tuesday. I’m average. I’m not wealthy. I also never listen when people tell me I should shoot a little lower. I don’t pay attention when people tell me I can’t do something.

Working hard doesn’t make you tired.

Believing that you should dream smaller; believing that you should be less passionate; believing that you are too small, too poor, or too ordinary to change the world–all those things will exhaust you.

Work-life balance is a popular American myth propagated by those who would sell you a fast-food lifestyle.

“You deserve a break today!”

A break from what? A break from trying to change the world? From realizing your dreams?

A break from being alive?

You deserve to be magnificent.

Don’t waste a single second believing anything less.


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