I was chatting with my friend and former Work It Mom columnist Karen Walrond recently and she used a phrase to describe her husband that has stuck with me and caused me to take a closer look at my own relationship to work. "He doesn’t live to work," she told me when I asked if he loved his job. "He has always worked to live."
Karen and I had been discussing our own passion for what we do; we both earn our incomes through work that we love to do. Our husbands - because mine seems to approach work in the same way hers does - have jobs in order to support lives that they love. I can see benefits to both philosophies and wonder if we make a choice between the two, or if we are hardwired for one over the other.
I have always justified, and even encouraged, the dogged pursuit of work that you love because it is, for most of us, how we spend the majority of our time. Assuming we work only eight hours a day and sleep for another eight (although most of us work more and sleep less than those recommended amounts), we are engaged in our jobs as often as anything else. Most adults spend more time with their co-workers, bosses and customers than they do with their spouses, children and friends. It is, one can reason, a tragic misuse of a life to spend so much of it doing something you don’t love.
My husband would argue that a job is simply a means to an end.
The work he does during the weekday supports the hobbies and passions that take up his nights and weekends. It provides income for good meals and a safe place to live in a city and neighborhood that he likes. It allows him to buy tickets to baseball games and presents for his loved ones. It makes date nights, family vacations and trips to the thrift store possible. It is in those ends that he finds joy and purpose.
Does working to live create a better work-life balance than living to work?
My husband is never too tired or too sad to work . He doesn’t come home from work too mentally exhausted to connect with his family. For the most part, what happens in one area of his life doesn’t interfere with his ability to perform in or enjoy another. It seems like he’s also less likely than I am to get his self worth or self esteem tangled up in his career success.
Career coach Penelope Trunk frequently asserts that people should not "do what they love" for money. She encourages doing what you love because you love it and getting a job that pays you well . I recently decided to stop pursuing travel writing, in part because it was interfering with my love of travel, and also because it doesn’t pay well. I decided it makes more sense to do what pays well and then I can afford to do the travel I love. I suspect that’s a small step towards following Penelope’s advice and in my husband’s footsteps.
Do you live to work, or work to live? Which path, do you think, is the one to balance?
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