Live to Work, or Work to Live?

Yes, it’s a cliché, but it seems like an essential question many people face.  I certainly am facing this issue head on.

How much of our body, mind and soul SHOULD we commit to our work?  Are we fulfilled BECAUSE of our work, or for the things that our work AFFORDS us to do?

It’s a personal choice.  I applaud those who are passionate about their work, show dedication, and I also have respect for those who see their job as a means to some other end (support their family, a lifestyle), thus work hard, but are not emotionally tied to their work.

Our  job, for better or for worse, DEFINES us.  It’s a big slice of our “identity pie.”

Think back to the last time you were unemployed, in-between work, and NOT a student.  When someone asks, “So, what do you do?”  How do you answer that?

I would respectfully challenge everyone reading this to ask themselves this question:

Beyond my job title, WHO AM I?”

For myself, as a college professor, if I am no longer in a position to “profess,” then who am I?

That’s my question of the day, so please comment with your ideas and thoughts!!  Let’s get a conversation going about what our lives truly are about, and who we really are.

We Say NO to Status Quo.

Live Small.  Live Green.  Give Large.  Take Little.

19 thoughts on “Live to Work, or Work to Live?

  1. Wow – the answer to that question has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. I think it is in a constant state of evolution. But lately I think my most effective way to answer that question is ‘I am an explorer’. Considering I no longer have a job title, and have been blazing a new trail for the last 3 yrs with no directions.
    I think you pose a great question for many people to think about.
    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post!

  2. Not to be too flip or facetious, but I’ve always thought we are who we are, and if you are not happy with what you are, then change. Simplistic? Perhaps, but I’ve always had a problem with actually labeling the box for myself. In my life I have (had) many roles – I’d like to think that I understand and appreciate all that I am and have to give to these different people/parts of my life. I probably fall short in some respect more often than not, but that’s all part of me and part of life. I like and appreciate my work and conversely I like and appreciate what my work has provided for me. There are things at my work that still inspire passion (sometimes after a lot of coffee!) and maybe a bit more things outside of work that still give me thrills. I suppose at my age, I prefer the balance more so than the highs and lows. So, the short answer to the question posed is “yes”. I think I am all that and more (kinda like that Meredith Brooks song “I’m a Bitch”).

    1. Hey Elf,
      Who am I to judge? 🙂 I love how pragmatic you are, and it totally makes sense. I need some of that confidence (bravado-or is it bravada? no, that’s a car) you have, can you spare some? (ooh, just reminded of ‘can you spare a square?’ episode of Seinfeld, ew). 🙂

  3. Beyond my job I’m simply a monkey trying to find a way to see the world. But I do see so often and how easily it is to let our jobs define us, if it isn’t our job we let other things define our existence. We let material objects, who we know or our paycheck define us or more so – limit us. Yet, like you said it is ingrained in our culture so that if you don’t have a job and someone asks you ‘What do you do for a living’ you somehow loose value by not having an answer.

    1. Hey Corn,
      yeah, the issue of identity is a lifelong pursuit. It’s not just a teenage phase, or a midlife crisis… I think even my retired 72 year old physicist father may be ‘finding himself’ too…

  4. It’s funny the way that thing work. I was just telling my boyfriend that I am not enjoying what I am doing. And the crazy part is that so many people would love my job. I get to work (on my own social media consulting business) all day long and talk to people online/write blogs/build relationships. And yet…I find myself not happy. So then the question becomes…who am I? I am in the process of figuring that out. I always thought that I was an entrepreneur…now I don’t know if I am. Thanks for making me think!

    1. I can relate. I had so many part time jobs in college where if I were remotely interested in them, I would have had it made (like geophysics, tobacco research to name a couple). I was working with leaders in the field as an undergrad or graduate. I think we have the luxury of choice, whereas I realize many people are in circumstances where one is lucky to get any kind of work. There is dignity in any kind of work, and I would do anything to support my family, too. Nice to meet you on twitter!

  5. Such an important and profound question. One that we discuss often in one way or another in my yoga class.

    How do we go inside and really see who we are. Not what we do or what are role’s are but WHO we REALLY are…

    We are parents, children, business, owners, employees, friends…. but that still does not say who we are… those are roles. Important roles, but roles nonetheless.

    THanks for posing this question

    1. Thanks, Dianne. I forgot to mention that the impetus to write this short piece came from my bro-in-law, who randomly posed that question to us…
      You are right, roles are things we do, which are a reflection of who we are, but does not necessarily get to the core. It’s an existential question that may never be answered… 🙂

  6. Too many of us start out focused on “what am I going to do NEXT” which leads us quickly into a 9-to-5 kind of job. Once there, we’re complacent enough to ride out decades of our life until we realize that we’re letting life slip right by us. You must never forget to keep the long-term goals in mind, never forget that STUFF weighs you down, literally and figuratively, and concentrate on the attaining the most minimal lifestyle that makes you happy.

    1. It’s like your comments came right out of my brain! Thanks Lisa, and “PL” for your thoughtful comments. I would love to strike that balance of having satisfying, meaningful work, along with a meaningful life, period… Cheers!

  7. I live to work (now) because I love what I do. Didn’t always, which is why I left a corporate life. My goal for starting my business was simply to like my day (try getting financing with THAT as your business plan). Happily, I reached that goal nearly immediately, and can now focus on other business-related goals.
    I always love your posts – they make me think!

    1. thanks, muso for suggesting the site. Thought it was spam at first, good thing I checked it out! 🙂

  8. Beyond my job title, my website shows what I’m all about 😉

    I actually have wondered this same thing a few times in my life. I have a tendency to get caught up in projects, either personal or work related, and go through periods where I am a huge workaholic – and then scale it back to more balanced, like where I am now. So there have been times in my life where those projects and work did totally consume me and define me – but it was things I really enjoyed, and I still wonder whether fully immersing myself in them was the right decision

    I don’t think I’ll know for another 10 or 20 years when I can look back on it 😉

    1. Thanks, Sid for commenting. I wonder if there is a ‘right’ balance for each person, and I guess we’ll know it when we feel it. I recall reading in the psych literature that people with more diverse “identities” or roles in their lives tend to withstand changes better in their lives. So, if something is lost, like their job, that’s only one small part of their identity that is lost, not their entire self… if that made sense.

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