Working Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Working is meant to be as easy as breathing. Not a daily grind.

That isn’t a lofty philosophical statement, either. The truth of this is literally displayed in the world around us. Animals don’t work, not like we do. Foxes don’t wake up in the morning, stressed about the day of hunting ahead of them. Squirrels do not wake up in the morning pumping themselves up for the daily grind. Flowers do not work in order to bloom.

Their work is instinct, and doing it for them is as easy as breathing. It’s what they’re supposed to do.

That isn’t to say they don’t labor. All living things labor. But labor isn’t the same as work. Labor here just means expending energy, performing an activity to some end.

Not like Work. Work is something we’ve built up in our heads, a thing we get stressed out about, a thing we are supposed to do (because people who do not Work are Lazy). Yeah, work stresses us all out and makes us miserable sometimes, but that’s work, right?

Right?

We’re all stressed out about work, together, and because it’s so normal to be stressed out by work and because everyone is, we seem to accept that it’s supposed to be that way. We’d all like to be less stressed, so we try yoga, we try dancing, we try listening to calming music. If those measures don’t work maybe you see your doctor, get diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, maybe start taking medication.

Because (apparently) if you’re not living in harmony with your work, it’s you that’s the problem, not the work.

Well this time, it’s not me, it’s you.

There’s an expectation in middle to upper class america that you should excel at your work. You should get a job, be good at your job, get promoted, work full time, and make something of yourself (and make a ton of money in the process). Then you can spend that well-earned money on things like a big house, car, and cool toys that you like. Then you’ll be satisfied.

We all seem to know it doesn’t work out that way, but it’s a well-kept secret. We all prattle about the meaninglessness of material possessions, even as we orient our entire lives around pursuing them. We all admit that stuff will never make us happy, yet the exact reason we want more hours or better pay is to get more stuff. It’s nuts.

Think back to the fox. The fox doesn’t go to bed at night wondering how much money they’re going to have after their mortgage payment this month. The fox doesn’t worry about whether his paycheck will give him enough to feel secure this month. The fox is at peace with it’s existence, and I bet that if the fox had self-awareness, the fox would say he’s happy.

This isn’t a suggestion that we all live in dirt holes like foxes. The fox does, however, serve to demonstrate the enormous gulf between the natural state of life on Earth, and what humans in the 21st century have turned life into. We’ve turned our lives into an insane fight against nature.

Now, there are some fights against nature we shouldn’t give up. The fight to stay alive, fed, and sheltered is one we shouldn’t give up.

But, the human relationship to work has evolved so far beyond the struggle to survive. Humans work blindingly hard just to purchase facsimiles of nature, instead of experiencing the real thing. It’s insane, what we do to avoid reality.

Here are some examples:

  • We work 40 or more hours a week, to buy expensive premade food, which is bad for us, and then we pay the doctor to be healthy again, when we could have just cooked healthy food at home.
  • We work 40 or more hours a week, inside an office, to make money, to buy lawncare, to cultivate a garden in our backyard, when all we had to do to see nature was go see it.
  • We work 40 or more hours a week, to buy a ton of stuff we like, and when we have too much stuff in our house, we work to afford a storage unit where we can put the stuff. We pay for products we don’t use and then we pay for a place to put them.
  • We work 40 or more hours a week for a large or living situation, and then we don’t ever get to enjoy it because we’re too busy at work.
  • We work 40 or more hours a week to spend money on nice furniture, ergonomic office equipment, or other tools that correct damage we get from working all the time.
  • We work 40 or more hours a week to afford a gym membership to correct health issues we get from being inside working all the time, when all it really takes to work out is something heavy to lift and somewhere to run.

I could go on.

Work isn’t meant to be an endless, pointless struggle like this. We’re supposed to work, but we’re supposed to work the way the fox hunts and the flower grows; naturally, without struggle or toil. We’re not meant to be laying in bed at night, wondering about our mortgage.

My call to you is to take a step closer to what work is supposed to be. That could mean a lot of different things for different people; it could mean buying a house with a smaller lawn. It could mean restricting your housing budget. It could mean learning to cook at home. It could mean accepting less work to reduce your stress, so that you live happier and healthier.

For me, it meant letting go of a longstanding dream to be some kind of millionaire entrepreneur, because I wanted it for all the wrong reasons. I was taught that we all work full-time, and the good ones, the hard workers, they worked more than full time. Well, I’m smart, I’m responsible, so I will work very hard. And if I am going to work very hard at something, I want to work very hard at this. Then I can make a ton of money, and buy the things I want, like freedom, health, hobbies, so on and so forth.

Really, it wasn’t the startup or the company I wanted. They sounded fun, and I’m sure that should a company fall into my lap, I’ll enjoy the job. But those weren’t the things that drove me. What drove me was the desire for freedom, time to pursue my own interests, and time to be healthy.

It turns out, I don’t need to be some kind of millionaire entrepreneur to do that. People often say they want to be rich to ‘buy their time back.’ Well, I don’t need to “buy my time back,” because I’m not selling it in the first place. If I want to spend less time working, all I have to do is spend less time working.

My dream now is to have a day job I work 15–20 hours a week, and spend the rest of my time on the rest of my life; reading, writing, perhaps traveling, but mostly just being with my family. This means living in much less house then I can ‘afford,’ learning to cook (to eat healthy on the cheap), hiking, learning to travel on the cheap, and letting go of owning lots of nice clothes/shoes/bags.

Ask yourself what your priorities are. You work long hours, every day. What are you working for?