One of the biggest lies perpetrated against people on a daily basis is the message that working less is part of having a good life. It’s in so many commercials, selling products that are supposed to “make your life easier.” It’s in the way that politicians talk on the campaign trail. It’s in our own language patterns about someday retiring, not having to work any more, and “living the good life.”
When I was in high school, teachers and guidance counselors kept telling me that I was a bright student, and that I would go to college and make my living using my intelligence. As a student who got good grades, I was not steered toward classes that taught skills like welding or woodworking, but instead was enrolled in classes that would prepare me for higher learning and a white collar job. The adults in my life didn’t disparage people who did physical labor for a living, but there was a clear message that having to work hard was less desirable.
Of course, nobody would ever say it outright. It was embedded in the broader conversations I was having with people. Phrases like, “work smarter, not harder” and “why kill yourself doing all that work” are used daily by so many people, and we don’t think about the cumulative effect of those phrases. They create, through the sheer volume of repetition, an emotional reaction in which one is compelled to feel like working hard is a bad thing.
Over time, I noticed how pervasive the message really was. In college, we all talked about getting a “good job” someday, and those conversations never involved descriptions of going someplace every day where you worked really hard, physically or mentally. A good job was one where you could collect a nice paycheck while doing something that was interesting, enjoyable, and worthwhile.
And today, I work with clients who are often unhappy with their lives despite having a “good job.” They can pay their bills, go on vacations, and have nice things, yet they are still unfulfilled.
What if work is what fulfills us?
What if we evolved over thousands and thousands of years to be doers, creators, and builders? What if working, in all its forms, is our way to feel our energy being expressed to the universe? If this is the case, then working hard would actually translate to more happiness. When I use the word “work” I don’t just mean your job, but the broader definition of the word to include the exertion of effort or energy.
And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that work is the only thing that can fulfill us. Our relationships, our relationship with source, and our sense of purpose all factor in to creating a fulfilling life. It just seems that work has gotten a really bad rap over the past few decades. Maybe it’s time for that to change.
Perhaps working hard, with a sense of purpose and clarity, is necessary. Maybe working hard at something of your choosing is an important part of feeling happy each day.
What’s worth working hard for? Who deserves your best work? How might your life improve if you decided to work harder, in a specific and purposeful way, on a particular aspect of your life?
It’s something to think about.