I once heard a saying that “Italians work to live, while Americans live to work.” Sad, but true. Having spent some time living and studying in other countries, I can say that Americans are arguably some of the hardest-working people on the planet. Arguably we are also overworked. The impetus to work a lot actually comes from a good place – this truly is the country of opportunities. But opportunities do not grow on trees – we have to work for them. Thus, the more we work, the more opportunities we can make and doors we can open for ourselves. But are we working too hard and too much? I think nowadays we are so obsessed with the idea of these proverbial opening doors that sometimes we forget to actually walk through them. We work to reach that opportunity, but then forget to grab it.
Hard work is increasingly becoming not the means to an end, but an end in itself as we spend on average 60% (yes, 60%) of our waking time at the daily grind, away from people we love, not doing the things we enjoy doing. Isn’t that a scary statistic?? Yet we accept it as a fact of life that we have to work a lot so that we can buy that big house, or that new car. Even though the time we actually spend in that house is limited to eating and sleeping, and the car takes us to and from the job … that we have to do in order to make the car payments. Sounds rather like being a squirrel inside a wheel, doesn’t it? Working a lot but really getting nowhere? When do we actually take time to enjoy life? Why do we not make LIFE a priority?
I have met people in my professional sphere who have significantly higher earnings than myself. They are often surprised at the number of books I read just for fun, the number of times I go on vacation or fly to visit my sister out-of-state, the fact that I have this blog and I cook the meals I post on here, myself. Where do you find time for all that, they ask?? Where do I find time for all that living??!! The thing is, that finding a work/life balance starts with changing our very mentality. And often to have a little more of one thing (life and free time), you have to give up a little more of the other (money and things). It is scary to think that you are compromising the security that more money can bring. But isn’t it even more scary to think that you might never have time to read “War and Peace,” never see the Eiffel tower in person, never make your grandmother’s famous cake recipe? Isn’t it more scary to observe life from your office window rather than take part in it?
So go ahead, take that vacation day that you were going to “gift” back to your employer at the end of the year. Sleep in, make yourself a nice breakfast, go on a road trip with your family. This is what’s important.