The “Every Moment Counts” mantra is a ruse
I’m seeing a growing trend in personal and professional environments promoting living in the moment and enjoying each day. It’s an attitude which recognizes the finite amount of time we have in this life and prioritizes personal freedom over professional expectations. After all, if you spend your whole life working, when do you actually plan to enjoy it?
By the way, this isn’t a Millennial thing. I’ve heard colleagues young and old express this idea. Some, having experienced a long career of hard work and no commensurate substance to show for it, reminisce regrettably and caution the younger generation from repeating their mistake. “Lost time” weighs heavy on the soul. Younger professionals seem to take that advice to heart, with their own fears for “lost time” understandably vindicated. For the sake of my argument, let’s call these people the Chronophobics.
Chronophobia is anxiety over the passage of time. Chronophobia is especially common in prison inmates and the elderly, but it can manifest in any person who has an extreme amount of stress and anxiety in their life. [Wikipedia]
The choice of how much effort to invest in one’s career, once you realize you do in fact have a choice, is a difficult one to make. On the other end of the spectrum, there are perceived workaholics who are perfectly comfortable with putting in maximum effort into their career, whether there is a return on that investment or not. In my opinion, those people find peace of mind in their hard work, confident in the fact that if they try their hardest, everything will work out. These people have the opposite fear as the Chronophobics; they fear the loss of effort. Let’s label them Workaholics. When they go home at the end of the day, they want to know the job is done and only then can they relax.
So we have Chronophobics and Workaholics. Ok, I realize this is a bit simplified, but bear with me.
Despite where you fall in the spectrum, you must concede that it is by your own choice. Maybe not day to day, but certainly over the span of a career, your choices and actions influence your behavior showing a trend towards how you value your time.
Here’s my point: don’t judge others based on where they fall in the spectrum.
Since the start of my career, I have made the personal decision to fall on the Workaholic side of the spectrum. Choosing to complete grad school while working full time, I’ve only skewed further in that direction. I’m also aware that my friends and colleagues that land somewhere on the Chronophobic side of the spectrum see me negatively. I sense their disappointment in conversations and it’s pretty disheartening.
But guess what? I feel the same way about them. It’s a subconscious impulse to disagree with the other side of the spectrum and it only gets stronger as the difference in opinion grows. That’s why the “every moment counts” and “live every day like it’s your last” attitude is really jarring to my morale. It’s tempting to buy into — hell, why wouldn’t I want to drop everything at 8 pm on a Thursday night and grab a beer? Shouldn’t I be enjoying the limited time I have in my 20's?
I have a plan. I reconcile my professional efforts having higher priority than my personal free time at this stage in my life as a personal choice that has laid the foundation for family and career goals; answerable only to my wife.
With this in mind, I promise to respect the decisions of others, wherever they may fall on the spectrum.