It all stemmed from a recent text conversation with my son, a sophomore in college, and fierce perfectionist. He’s taking a difficult full course load and interning 12 hours a week. And he sings in the choir. And he rock climbs two or three days a week. And he has a social life. He was lamenting the need to manage his stress level, as he learned the hard way his freshman year about overdoing it. He, like many in his generation, feels the pressure to work ridiculously hard, all in hopes of graduating and getting a decent job.
He’s working a 40 to 50 hour week now for what? So he can go work for one of the coveted Fortune 100 companies where he’ll work most likely work a 60-hour week? Where does it end? Where does this obsession Americans have with a warped sense of success end? I’ve been intrigued by The Good Country Index which measures what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away – a country that contributes to the greater common good. So guess where the U.S. is on this index. 21st.
I don’t know about you, but as a culture who touts hard work, I’m wondering what we’re working towards. Lately, I laugh when I hear the term: work-life balance. One, why does the word “work” come first? Two, what about family? Why isn’t family part of this phrase? Isn’t family more important than work?
I’ve decided to change public opinion and take a stand on the importance of us all achieving LIFE BALANCE. Life is about family, fun, friends, food, travel, and happiness, while work is just a means to an end (and if we keep working at the pace we’re programmed as corporate warriors, that end will come sooner rather than later).
So back to my son. I’m trying to impress upon him the importance of sorting out his LIFE BALANCE while he’s still young. Instead of developing a work ethic, I want him to develop a life ethic – a drive to establish his guidelines now for enjoying life. One of the best books I’ve ever read is Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson. Living in the present is such a catchphrase these days, but this books actually gives you the tools to do so.
A day doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t complain about how busy they are. They’re busy with that means to an end and not busy just having fun. We need to start with today’s generation of high school and college students and change the mindset of this country to one of life balance, with work simply being another one of the cogs in the wheel. We need to begin focusing on life balance and dropping the word “work.” We’re burning out tomorrow’s future leaders and where will that leave us in the Good Country Index? Don’t tell your students to “work hard”. Tell them to “learn…to enjoy life.”