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Is There Life After Work or Is Work the Most Interesting Thing in My Life?

Mar 3, 2008
There is an old quandary that goes something like "do you live to work or work to live?"

A typical life-work evolution may go something like this: the first choice is to work or not to work; the second choice, often years later, is to work for another or to work for oneself; finally, when income is sufficient to meet needs, does work really fit in with the rest of one's life?

Most people, at least those of us that do not have trust funds, have to face these questions. How we make these decisions not only influences finances but ultimately a much bigger question - is my life satisfying and meaningful?

Unfortunately many of us only ask the financial questions - how can we maximize income to increase assets? Today's younger people, at least the non-wealthy ones, see this as the primary question to be resolved.

The choices we make as a younger person determine the initial direction our lives take. Many younger people, especially those choosing professions, make their choices based on income and income potential. Factors such as interest are much less significant.

This is why we see so many doctors and lawyers with frowns - they did it for the money. They are not really interested in sick people or the nuances of law.

When we follow interests we come closer to achieving meaning and satisfaction. When we stray from interest we may find income but seldom do we find meaning and satisfaction. It may just be in our mind but isn't perception everything?

Some say that life is cruel, unfair and disgusting. They lead lives of "quiet desperation" and as a consequence became bitter, even though they have amassed personal wealth. On the other hand, those that have followed their interests view their lives as having great meaning and a high degree of satisfaction.

Sure they made mistakes and many ended up with minimal assets and a fixed low income but one can see the smiles and the contentment in their faces.

Personal wealth is not the main factor in their happiness. What is most important to them is they have become masters of their own fate and have not let others or social pressures lead them down paths they really did not want to go.

When one sees an owner, manager or an employee that really loves their work, we also see a happy human being. And almost always a highly productive, contributing individual. In evaluations and reviews contented employees usually respond that they are very interested in what they do and often find high levels of satisfaction.

When asked how they view their future they usually respond that they expect their future to be challenging and interesting. Why not?

When one sees owners, managers and employees that are obviously not happy it's certain the individuals are in it for the paycheck. They go to work to support themselves and their families and they go only because they have to.

They do not truly enjoy what they do, they get very little satisfaction at work and they are usually unhappy with their compensation. Because they hate what they do they always feel they cannot be paid enough. And as no surprise these individuals have very little fun in their personal lives as well.

Those that dislike their work tend to split their lives in segments. When they 'punch in' at work they go on the drone mode. On the other hand, those that love their work see their work and personal lives as extensions of each. They make no artificial distinction because they do not hate their work.

Because they find meaning and satisfaction in their work they often find the same in their personal lives. As Krishnamurti noticed their lives are integrated and not fragmented.

As the pressures of work intrude more into our personal lives we need to ask some important questions: are our work/life problems caused by scheduling and time management or is our work becoming more of a distasteful, though necessary chore? Are we following our interests? Is our work life meaningful or routine?

We humans are complex beings. Just as our personal life influences work so too does work influence our personal life. Maybe we should not look so much to time management to balance the work-life dichotomy. Maybe we should reflect on what truly interests us.

Maybe then we will find out what really makes us tick.
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of Jack D. Deal Business Consulting. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/business and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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