Is There a Compelling Case for Working a Lot Less?

My comments on the article "The Compelling Case for Working a Lot Less"
By Amanda Rugger

Illustration above by John Tenniel from Through the Looking-Glass

In the story Through the Looking-Glass the Red Queen character explains to Alice that it takes a lot of running to stay in the same place. You don't want to be the Red Queen. 

The title of this article got my attention right away. How hard should or do you need to work? On the surface this idea of working a lot less may sound like sacrilege. It goes against our basic beliefs about ambition and productivity and how to make things happen.  We are told that we will be rewarded by hard work and that you must work hard to succeed. We have conflated hard work with monetary gain and monetary gain with a good life.  Many accept such beliefs as truths. It is good to see that the world of science is coming to our rescue, so to speak, by providing data and analysis that suggests that there may be some holes in our understanding. They have found evidence that long working hours increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 40% and people who worked more than 11 hours a day were almost 2.5 times more likely to have a major depressive episode than those who worked seven to eight.

Through various spiritual masters we have been advised that there is more to life and living then just hard work. I don’t think any of them believed that living, existence requires you to work hard. Jesus spoke of the flowers of the field: “And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” Buddah said, ” Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” The author of the article quotes the philosopher Bertrand Russell from 1932, “The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.” We have been conditioned to believe that hard work is necessary for reward, to prove value. We are not taught that we are born of value and that we don’t need to be constantly “proving” ourselves through the work we do. You can never work hard enough to earn your life. Work has become a means to an end instead of a process of engagement. Work in and of itself does not provide value, instead, we are the ones assigning value to the work being performed.

In the corporate world hard work becomes your mantra and promotions and increased benefits are your rewards. Many of us are seeing now that this promise cannot always be kept. Sometimes, despite how hard you have worked, they may have to outsource the work you do or reduce your benefits or hold down your salary. With so many people working for corporations and small businesses it is no surprise that the belief in hard work is so pervasive. If you don’t work hard you don’t progress in that environment. Recently we have seen many cracks in the cement of the hard work belief. Many of us are working hard and not seeing much by way of results. No real increase in wages, struggling to make payments for basic necessities like healthcare and education. There are many stories of young people working hard in school and having a very difficult time finding a job opportunity that will allow them to pay back the debts they have accumulated by pursuing an education. It is becoming apparent that hard work alone will not pull us through the dark tunnel to the promised light at the end of it.

I am not against work, but I don’t believe in the sanctity of hard work. I feel that work, the action taken, is far more effective when it is inspired and not simply a means to an end or a way to escape unwanted circumstances. I believe inspired action is far more effective then nose-to-the-grindstone hard work. Inspired action may come as an intuition or unexpected idea. Creativity is inspired action. It is difficult to be inspired when you are mindlessly running an unchallenged mantra about hard work. You have to be willing to admit that your actions are not keeping your world together. Who is keeping your world together while you sleep? You aren’t working then. Why do you wake up the next morning pretty much where you left off the evening before?

Mary-Margaret Moore/Bartholomew has said that “When you let go of the feeling of having to do it all, of having to get it right, of having to appear a certain way, then creativity can move into the moment, that’s what living is.” We act as though our actions are solely responsible for holding our world together. Yet we can’t even be consciously responsible for our basic physical maintenance so much of it happens without our conscious direction. We aren’t usually aware of breathing or keeping our hearts beating or converting food to energy. We don’t consciously understand how our senses work to form the world we are struggling so desperately to control.

What is it that you are trying to control by working so hard? I am beginning to believe that if we relaxed more than more would happen.


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