There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance

There's work, and there's life, and there's no balanceHas Britain got its priorities right?

I’m sure we all work with people who look at relaxation and the desire to have a life outside of the office as suspect. Take Jeremy Corbyn for instance; he takes a vacation to Scotland and he gets it in the neck. Why can’t he have some time off?

It doesn’t help that politicians urge us to work harder:

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has sparked outrage by suggesting that Britain’s low paid should work as hard as the Chinese to make up for the cuts to their tax credits due to be imposed by the Government next year.

Should we?

The enforcement of China’s work-safety measures has lagged behind the growth of its economy, now the world’s second-largest. Industrial workplaces boast dire safety records. Last month 33 people died in a blast at an explosives factory, while another 28 workers died in a coal mine. In 2012 workplace accidents killed over 70,000 people, approximately 200 people each day. Fatal mining accidents are so common that they rarely make newspaper splashes.

And:

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave

Also:

Four in ten Americans do not use all of their paid vacation days and overall leave about 169m days on the table each year.

Is this what we want? The lack of not being able stop working comes from a desire to feel in control of how things will turn out.

Often, it’s not such a helpful way to be.

For starters, I don’t think we ever control how things will turn out. We might think we do, but how often do things turn out the way you planned? Life is a series of unexpected outcomes, despite my best intentions to get to certain goals. Even the goals that I reach turn out to be much different once I achieve them than I had planned.Hard Work

What’s more, I’ve found that when I want to control the outcome of things, I become more anxious, more tense.

Let’s look to Marcus Aurelius for guidance:

Display those virtues that are wholly in your power – integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion and magnanimity

Man’s joy is to do man’s proper work. And work proper to man is benevolence to his own kind, disdain for the stirrings of the senses, diagnosis of the impressions he can trust, contemplation of universal nature and all things thereby entailed.

So while hard work is important, you can still be virtuous. Realise that you can’t stop yourself from wanting to control things, you have to just notice the desire to control things, and let the urge happen. Just sit there and see the urge, feel it, be with it.

I don’t need to control things to enjoy them. I can just let things happen.

That said, I still take action. I still do work. But the action is not to control the outcome. Act, and trust that things will turn out fine, even if you don’t know what that outcome might be.

The work-until-you drop philosophy may excite high-flying professionals for whom the appearance of chronic overwork is a status symbol. But remember that being a cog in a capitalist machine is not the highest human calling. If aspiration means anything, it should be the desire not just for a good job, but for a good life.

Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions? Am I mad? Have I got it totally wrong? Leave a comment below.

Image credits:
Photo credit: Billy Wilson Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC


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