Work to live or live to work – or a mix of both?

So it’s Thursday afternoon and today is the first day of what will be a four-day weekend for me.  These are incredibly rare and I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.  Hubby and I slept in and then went out for breakfast, after which I went to the gym.  I was home by 1:30pm, looking ahead to an afternoon of relaxation and giving attention to the little projects that I always want to work on but which too often get neglected in the mix of daily chores, socializing and yes, sometimes just being lazy and bingeing on House of Cards.

This is an incredibly luxurious feeling, and it has me wondering what it would be like to have a work schedule which allowed me more of these kind of days; you know, the ones where you are super productive at getting things done both personally and professionally but which aren’t really dictated by any arbitrarily constructed schedule?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes for a satisfying life, and I talked about it a bit in a recent post.  I don’t really have answers, so stop reading now if you’re looking for a quick fix!  But I do have a few thoughts to share, I can’t promise they are right for everyone but it’s what I’ve been exploring lately.

First things first – I am a nine-to-fiver.  I have a great career in my chosen field with good pay and benefits.  I know how lucky I am to have these things.  But my job also requires me to conform to an office schedule that doesn’t match my natural energy cycle, I have to follow a chain of command that is composed of people for whom I have varying degrees of respect, and I am endlessly waiting my turn to apply to participate in special projects – which is almost totally dependent on the personalities in charge of the project and frankly, whether or not you’re “in” with the right people at the right time.  Merit comes in a distant third.

What if I want to find the answers myself?
What if I want to find the answers myself?

I’ve come to accept that I’m not 100% satisfied with my career.  If I had to put a number on it, I’d say I’m about 75% satisfied, 75% of the time.  I accept that there are things outside of my control, and that nobody’s job is perfect.  I don’t live in a fantasy world where I think the ideal solution is out there somewhere, right around the corner.  The grass might be greener but there’s a good chance you’ll find that each lawn has its fair share of piles of doggy doo to contend with (when you own two dogs, this is where your analogies go, I guess).

But I think an important exercise to go through is to ask yourself: if money were no object, what would I do with my life?

Wow, what a loaded question!  If money were no object, would I stay in my overall-pretty-good job?  Or would I branch out on my own, start my own business or become a consultant in my own field?  Would I make my own schedule and drift from project to project, hoping to make money but more importantly, hoping to connect with people and learn something new?  Ten years ago I would’ve immediately said that I was happy with the status quo and I liked the daily routine.  Now, I’m not so sure.

I guess what it boils down to is having both the willingness and the ability to take risk.  I say ability because sometimes you just don’t have the financial or personal ‘wiggle room’ to take a risk on a new job or career.  I’m kind of in that situation now; while we’re not high rollers by any stretch of the imagination, my husband and I have a comfortable lifestyle that is dependent on maintaining our current income level, and I wouldn’t want to change our lifestyle too drastically.

On the other hand, I’m becoming more and more willing to take risks professionally if I thought it wouldn’t have too much financial impact.  I’m seriously considering starting a business out of my home, something to do in my free time which would offer completely uncharted territory for learning and trying something new.  This would require some financial investment and obviously a commitment to learning business, which is totally outside my comfort zone.  It might not be successful.  My business might fail.  But that scares me less and less, the older I get and the more I think about it.

I’m convinced the key factor here is to really know yourself.  Not just your professional skills and interests, which is what they drum into you in school.  You have to know your personality, your energy cycles, your tolerance for change, your level of motivation to push the envelope.  How much worry are you comfortable with?  What do you need in order to sleep soundly at night?  These are hard questions to answer but I think they’re key to finding a career and lifestyle that is right for you.

I’ve only just started exploring these questions.  My current dilemma stems from the fact that my current job, which really stimulates me mentally, doesn’t really fit with my personality in a lot of other ways.  Physically and psychologically I think I would be much happier if I could make my own schedule.  Intellectually I dislike giving up control (over my work and my opportunities) to other people.  Creatively, I yearn for more challenges and more freedom to think outside the box.  But I also like my paycheque every two weeks, like clockwork.

This post really wasn’t meant to find answers, just a stream of consciousness exploration of my thoughts lately.  If you got this far, thanks for following it with me!  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about finding happiness in your job, or when and how one should make a change!

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2 thoughts on “Work to live or live to work – or a mix of both?

  1. I think there is no better time to make change than now! Especially if it’s in regards to your own happiness. Happiness, for me, trumps all other things including income. I’d much prefer to be happy in my job and earning half (or less) what I was earning. As for your title.. we are a ‘work to live’ kind of society.. Go to School – University – Job – Retire – then what? This is backwards to me.. We’re told to work our butts off until we have enough money to live and have fun, but by then.. we’re too old, or incapable of doing all the fun things we could have.. I once sat in a work meeting where they told us we have to be safe at work, so we can come back to work to earn the money so we can go on holidays or buy that new tv.. We have to work, so we can afford to have fun??.. Anyway.. I’ve gone on a rant now.. Interesting topic.. I could go on for hrs lol

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    1. Lol, I agree, there is so much to talk / think about with this! I also lean more towards job happiness than just financial gain, but… I also like to take vacations and shop when I feel like it. 🙂 Those things make me happy too! I think that’s why I’m thinking of starting a small business on the side. Best of both worlds? Ridiculously overworked? These are topics for another post! 🙂

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