Some of us spend the best (both largest and generally also the most productive) part of our life working. We do so purely to earn a living, to interact with people, and for many diverse and sometimes complex reasons. I will say that as humans we MUST work. Just as a child must play and just as we must eat and drink, every human needs some form of work. Though I realize this is a strong statement, I have come to the conclusion that work is absolutely necessary for healthy living. Popular perception and even books conflict with what I just said. I have days when working is the last thing I would rather do but let me give you a few reasons why I feel work is critical for our well-being.
- Our lives are short, but when they are empty, they are endless. Work is one way to fill an otherwise empty life (though there are other requirements as well).
- We learn so much when working. Humans require learning for well-being. Work gives us at least one reason to continue learning and reflecting.
- We are born with basic genetic knowledge but much of what our parents learn in their lives unfortunately is not transmitted to us and we must work to earn most of that knowledge. We cannot raise healthy families if we do not have the necessary knowledge.
- We must work to improve our communities, our countries, and the places where our children live. That is as important as teaching our kids to read.
- Work also gives us an opportunity to flex our creative muscles. Even people engaged in manual, repetitive labor have this opportunity although often they do not realize this.
- Our work defines us just as we define it. People often introduce themselves as “Hi, I’m Jane. I am a doctor, etc…” How often do you hear “Hi, my name is Peter, I do nothing all day.”
- By working we become more interesting.
These are just a few of the reasons. You should always work, even when you reach your retirement age, you should continue to work. Even if you are in a society with high unemployment rate and cannot “find” work, you should invent work (go outside and sweep the street if you think of nothing else). Even if you are ill or have a handicap, do not let that get in the way of your work, redefine your work around it instead.
I constantly observe people, especially the seniors. Those who continue to work and live active lifestyles seem to live longer and happier than those who think of retirement as the stage where one can be excused from working. On the younger side of the spectrum, people who start working earlier in life seem to get further economically and socially than those who are supported by parents’ resources until their thirties. In raising children, one of my greatest challenges is teaching not to be lazy, an attribute as destructive as dishonesty among other bad human traits. So far, I have not found a better way than teaching by example. Working is not easy. However, as you examine your life and your paths, choose the path of hard work and learning even if you are not required by your circumstances.