Roxane Gay, the job advice columnist for the NYTimes, makes some great points in this piece about how our focus on work and the myth that we need to “go above and beyond” are detrimental to us.
I started thinking “If it’s so bad, why do we perpetuate it?”.
Well, remember when you were a kid and your parents caught you doing something stupid and they didn’t buy your excuse that all your friends were doing it as well, so it can’t be so bad?
Your parents probably said something like “Would you jump off a cliff if your friends, did it?”.
(It was always a cliff or bridge they used in their example, amiright?)
Our perceptions of work and what’s expected of us sort of came about the same way, except it’s the working generations unwittingly setting up younger people for disappointment and frustration because “that’s what everyone does”.
We tell them to go out, work hard, go above and beyond so they stand out and that they’ll reap the rewards later in life.
(Oh, yeah, and dismiss any desire for fulfillment and job satisfaction because that’s all woo-woo and life just isn’t that kind. But we don’t tell that that part! )
However, many people work their entire lives with no rewards. And it’s not for lack of effort.
While some people have jobs they love and have achieved the perfect life and work balance, most feel tethered to their careers in such a way that it controls their lives.
Their job may have been interesting at some point, but they’ve changed, or the job has. Or it may have never been interesting and it simply pays the bills. (I admire the people who can make this work day-after-day.)
They’re stuck because they’re the breadwinner, or they’re mid-career and are afraid no one will hire them, or have student loans to pay, etc. etc.
(From what I’ve seen, all these perceived barriers can be overcome.)
As Thoreau said, people end up spending “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.”
We’d all be less stressed and happier overall if we put less emphasis on what happens 9-5 and enjoyed ourselves throughout our lives and didn’t save it up for later in life for when we might not be in the best shape to do so.
What do you think?