For many people, “work” is a word with unpleasant associations. Children associate it with the burden of school work, which they have to do, like it or not. Many adults associate it with a nine-to-five job, an onerous chore that they believe they must endure in order to afford basic necessities.
For such people, the very concept of work becomes anathema. To some, even outside of work and school, the idea of doing work is unpleasant. The stress of working life makes even household chores or the idea of working hard on a private project feel repellant; all one wants to do is rest and enjoy those few hours of the day to relax and have fun.
This isn’t what work should be. Work is something human beings have been doing as long as the species has existed—long before jobs or schools were a thing. Merriam-Webster offers many definitions of work, one of which is “to exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose.” This definition continues with the statement that it can also be “under compulsion or necessity,” but even in these cases it has a purpose.
In order to have a healthy relationship with work, you have to be clear on its purpose, and that purpose should be something that motivates you. It should be toward a goal you’ve chosen to pursue, in service of your own happiness.
One person who clearly understands this is life-hack vlogger Chase Jarvis. In his video “Work/Life Balance Is a Myth,” he describes his hectic work schedule, but stresses that he lives that way because he wants to and loves what he does.
Jarvis describes how designing your life around someone else’s ideas of success, rather than your own, leads to “anxiety and pain.” This all-too-common approach of letting, as he calls it, “culture’s and society’s pressures” determine your choices, is an example of what Ayn Rand called “second handedness.” Instead of pursuing goals that you choose through your own thinking (being “first handed”) you substitute goals and values that you’ve adopted “second hand” in order to please or impress others.
Jarvis characterizes those self-directed goals as “what you’re put on this planet to do,” but it’s clear that he’s using that phrase to mean the things you’re good at and want to do with your life. Despite his implication, we are not born with intrinsic purposes that we have to discover and then fulfill. Rather, we create purpose in our lives by choosing and achieving our own goals based on our own interests.
“Work” should be about yourself. It should be associated with your dreams, the life you want to create for yourself, and the things that you love and desire. If done right, this kind of work should lead to feelings of success and achievement, of pride in your accomplishments, and of tremendous optimism and a sense of opportunity about what the future holds for you.
Of course, work always requires effort. To quote an old Spanish proverb, in life you have to “take what you want and pay for it.” If you want the good life, there is no easy path. You have to work, and work a lot. But hard work is only “hard” in the sense that it takes a lot of effort to achieve meaningful goals. When it’s being done for the right reasons, work doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling when it’s in service of the right values—your values.
Check out Jarvis’s video below. I hope both it and this article will help you develop a healthier approach to work. I can tell you from experience that doing so will change your life forever.