As far as I can figure, there are two ways to think about the work-life balance:
In the first model, people spend most of their working time (or at least as much time as possible) doing work that’s meaningful to them. That work can be creating something powerful or unique, doing something to better the community or the world, or simply providing a service that makes people happy. In return, the work you do provides you with the money you need to live and makes you feel good at the end of the day. In this model, both your happiness and your sustenance come from the same place—let’s call it the Working for your Passion model.
On the flip side are people who have jobs that bring them little to no fulfillment, but that do bring them the money they need to live (and sometimes it’s a lot of money!). In this model, since the job that provides your sustenance is either unfulfilling, tedious, or negative in some other way, you have to find fulfillment from other aspects of your life, either from hobbies, family, relationships, or some other kind of work that doesn’t necessarily pay. Music references aside, let’s call this the Working for the Weekend model.
The Working for the Weekend Model…
In a lot of ways, both models are equally valid. Working for the weekend can help you keep a clearer head when you’re outside of work, and because less fulfilling jobs on the whole can be easier to get (e.g., there are more data entry jobs than there are jobs writing comic books), it’s less likely that you’ll spend time unemployed or worrying where your next meal comes from, which can mean a lower stress level over time.
It’s also worth noting that raising children, traveling, pursuing hobbies you’re passionate about, and doing non-monetary creative work can be as tremendously fulfilling as the other forms of creative work I talk about on this blog, and can lead to the same satisfaction with a lot less headache (e.g., spending years trying to get that job writing comic books). So there’s that.
The downside to the working for the weekend model is that it often involves spending 40+ hours a week (even more if you count the time spent commuting) doing a job you can’t stand, that stresses you out, or that can otherwise make your life suck hard. If you’re lucky enough not to not have any of those drawbacks at your job—first off, congrats!—but you still have to live with the reality that you’re spending 40+ hours a week plus commuting time doing something that has no value besides bringing you a paycheck.
…and the Working for Your Passion Model
Meanwhile, working for your passion prevents a lot of that existential angst, since your 40+ hours is actually increasing the quality of your day-to-day life rather than detracting from it. I stand pretty firmly behind Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his work on the concept of flow when I say that work is one of the most meaningful activities a person can engage in, and it can bring us tremendous fulfillment as long as we do it actively in ways we can control and allow us to see the fruits of our work in the real world.
The extreme downside to this model is that a lot of the jobs that bring us fulfillment really aren’t that easy to get, and require a lot of sacrifices if you decide to go after them, like that comic book writing job I keep using as an example. Sometimes we get lucky and the job we’re passionate about is actually within relatively easy reach, but for the most part, you’re going to have your work cut out for you getting there.
The passion model also means you’ll spend a lot more time spent working, with a lot less available time for other things the weekend warriors can do more easily. Pursuing a passion can also lead to money problems if you’re not careful, which aren’t fun to deal with and often lead to your working some kind of Day Job, at least for a while. Money problems in turn can lead to you doing fewer of the non-work things you’d like to do (for example, if you’d like to start a family, or really like buying expensive motorcycles), which can mean big sacrifices.
And the Winner Is….
I don’t want to go on record saying that the Passion model is better than the Weekend model, since everyone works differently and has different goals. I will say, though, that most of the people reading this will probably find that the Passion model resonates more strongly, at least as an ultimate goal, simply because you’re the type of person who reads blogs like mine.
Or maybe reading this has made you realize that the Passion model really isn’t for you, and if that’s the case, that’s also OK. Or maybe you’re best suited to some combination of the two—honestly, whatever works.
The real point is to be more aware of how both ways of viewing work can suit your individual goals and situation, with the ultimate goal to find our old friend HAPPINESS. It’s also something to consider if you’re a young person thinking about your goals and the best way to pursue them.
That’s all I got for today—and in the meantime, I’ve got Day Job work to do.