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The Great Divide: Live to Work or Work to Live?

Have you ever found yourself staring at the clock on a Friday afternoon, wondering if you are truly living your life, or simply existing to work? This internal struggle between "living to work" and "working to live" is a common one, particularly in countries like the United States where work culture often takes center stage.

The "Live to Work" Mentality:

This approach prioritizes your career above all else. Long hours, constant hustle, and sacrificing personal time for professional advancements become the norm.  There are some people whom genuinely enjoy a fast-paced environment and can thrive in it, but for many, the trade-off comes at a significant cost.

The Downsides of Too Much Work or Workaholism:

  • Stress Overload: Chronic work pressure leads to heightened stress levels, impacting both mental and physical health including anxiety, panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, adrenal fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

  • Strained Relationships: Family and friends often take a backseat, creating feelings of neglect and resentment. They may stop asking to be a part of your life or cut off the relationship all together.

  • Burnout doesn't become an "if" but a "when.": The constant pursuit of achievement can lead to exhaustion, body or mental breakdown, or a loss of motivation or passion in your job and/or in other activities.

The "Work to Live" Philosophy:

This approach prioritizes a well-rounded life. Work is a means to an end, providing financial security to pursue hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and explore passions.

Benefits of Prioritizing Life:

  • Reduced Stress: A healthy work-life balance allows time for relaxation and rejuvenation, leading to a happier and more fulfilled life.

  • Stronger Relationships: Time and energy invested in personal connections create supportive networks.

  • Increased Productivity: A refreshed and balanced mind is actually more capable of focused work. Research shows that proper rest, taking breaks, and vacations can actually make us more productive at work.

Finding Your Balance:

This doesn't have to be an "either-or" dilemma. You can find fulfillment in your work while prioritizing your life outside it. Here are some tips:

  • Set Time Boundaries: Establish clear divisions between work time and personal time. Try setting an alarm for when it's time to cut off work.

  • Give Yourself Permission to Say No: Don't be afraid to decline unreasonable workloads or overtime requests. Most people do not get fired for setting reasonable boundaries especially when you are valuable to your company.

  • Prioritize Your Well-being: Take care of your physical and mental health through exercise, regular check ups, relaxation techniques, vacations, and quality sleep. Studies have shown that many people do not take their full vacation time. If it's given to you, you deserve to take it!

  • Discover Your Passions: Pursue hobbies and interests that bring you joy outside of work. When people have things outside of their work that fills their bucket then the work stresses are less depleting.

  • Ask Others For Help: Support may come in the form of delegating tasks, talking to your boss about needing time off, asking friends or family how they manage a work-life balance, or seeing a therapist to help you find the boundaries that work for you.

  • Inform Yourself: Don't know how to set boundaries or where to start? There are countless articles and self-help books out there that can give you some direction. Learning how people thriving in other countries with work-life boundaries may also guide you in making this change. I highly recommend The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of The World's Happiest People, which studied happiness in other countries and how they achieve it.

Ultimately, the ideal balance between living and working is personal and it's not always easy getting there. Listen to your needs, adjust your priorities, and don't be afraid to make changes. Pursue a life that allows you to thrive (rather than survive), both personally and professionally.

Remember, work should be a part of your life, not your whole life. 


The Little Book of Lykke link to Amazon:

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