“I honestly believe human beings are not meant to live like this. We are meant to live in loving communities and be around nature every day and grow our own food and create art and not work every day and night until we die. This longing for another life is not human nature, it is a symptom of modern society”. This was the lament from a young business woman that I read on social media recently. In many ways it asks the questions that most of us don’t have the time to stop and think about and gets to the heart of a very modern story – longer working hours are just the new reality.
So, why do we work? Should it be a means to an end or the end itself? There is of course no one answer to this as it flows from our individual beliefs about what we want from life. Does your work give your life meaning or does it simply provide the resources for you to live the life you desire? I believe it is important to stop and ask ourselves these questions and encourage our children to do so as well. Otherwise, it is very easy to be swept along by the current story in society – we all need to work hard and therefore make work your passion, so you enjoy working lots of hours. This story may work well for some people, but it necessarily leads to a prioritising of work over family, community, nature etc. Are you a failure if you don’t have or can’t ‘find’ your passion? Are you lazy if you choose a relaxed lifestyle over aspiration and ambition?
Today, we have never owned as many things, and we certainly don’t have to work as physically hard as our ancestors and yet being time poor, depression and anxiety are common modern complaints. Is it time to reassess the role of work in modern life?