We’ve all heard it before…the myth, the legend of the ever-elusive, highly unattainable work-life balance. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in a “chicken or the egg” conundrum, where it’s uncertain whether we’re living to work or working to live. Well, which one is it?
The lines are blurred. The average American will spend approximately 90,000 hours at work over his or her lifetime (that’s more than 10 years) and that doesn’t even include commuting hours! What’s really interesting is that American workers put in more time on the grind than anyone in the industrialized world. Not only do Americans work longer hours, we are also much more likely to work on nights and weekends—while many European countries enforce strict penalties on individuals who work more than they should.
Americans are always on call. We’re always thinking about work, talking about work, dreaming about work, plugged in and ready to answer emails and calls at all hours of the day and night. For some of us, we’re basically married to our careers and have a love-hate type relationship with them. Our co-workers are practically our families. We are around them almost every day of our lives. We rely on them, laugh and cry with them and we’ve all seen each other at our best times and at our worst. The people we work with become a significant part of our everyday lives.
Since the dawn of time, working has always been about survival. We need to earn our keep, provide for our families and make sure we have food on the table. In order to live in society, we must work.
Let’s break it down:
- As of 2015, the average American minimum wage is $7.25 per hour
- For a given week, at the federal minimum wage, a married couple with two children would need to work 130 hours weekly to be above the US cost of living threshold of $1,262 per week. And that’s before taxes!
- The annual healthcare cost for a family of four with employer-provided PPO insurance coverage in 2015 was $24,671 – a 6.3% increase from 2014
- Now, add in housing, food, commuting, day care, education, leisure…etc. Mathematically, it doesn’t add up. The solution? Either we need to work more, earn more or both
But work isn’t just about money (although raising the minimum wage would really benefit American workers!)—it’s about purpose. What we achieve in our professional lives is connected with who we are personally and how we feel about ourselves. The work we choose is a reflection of what defines us, so it’s important to examine what work means in our lives and to align our careers with who we are and what we stand for.
My good friend Randi Zuckerberg once said, “…if you have passion…if you have a love…if you have an interest, life is way too short to put it on hold…” I couldn’t agree more! Use your time productively for work that fulfills you, enlightens you and inspires you to live an enjoyable life. I admit it…I love my work. It brings me satisfaction, but it also gives me joy. As I always say, “You don’t often know your purpose until you’re walking in it.” Advocating and standing for women, that’s lifeblood for me; so I’m absolutely sure I’m walking in my purpose right now.
So yes, we often find ourselves working to live…but we’re also living to work on ourselves. It’s the kind of work we do in order to create a meaningful, significant life.
Here’s to figuring out your purpose…and walking in it!