There is a phrase I live by: “I work to live; I don’t live to work.” What this means, quite literally, is that I work in order to meet a standard of living I have set for myself. I work so that I can contribute to a comfortable retirement life as well. If I didn’t have to work in order to have the necessities and comforts of life that I value, I wouldn’t. I would allow someone who needs to work that opportunity.
The other side of the phrase is “I don’t live to work.” I don’t get up every day just to work. I spend eight hours a day at work doing something I am interested in and at which I want to succeed, but my whole life does not revolve around those eight hours. I live for a lot of things, like family and friends, hobbies, life goals, and overall daily satisfaction. Again, if I didn’t have to work, I wouldn’t. I would volunteer or maybe contribute to similar projects – but on my own time.
There are definitely people who live to work. Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage talks about the relationship between happiness and success. Some people believe that they will finally be happy when they meet certain professional benchmarks. “When I’m the Director, I’ll be happy!” “When I’m a department head, I’ll be happy!” You know what? They will be happy when they reach a goal they’ve set for themselves. What worries me is the idea that someone could spend their life – year after long year – working toward a goal and not being happy along the way. I may have to work 30 years before I can retire, but I can promise you I’m not spending 30 years focused solely on work to the complete disregard and neglect of everything else. I focus eight hours of my day specifically on professional success (sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less), but only because that work makes me happy. If it didn’t, I would find different work.
Achor says that success is a result of happiness. There are plenty of successful people in this world who are unhappy; who sacrificed much in order to become successful. There are others who enjoyed every minute of their climb to the top and who succeeded because they had a healthy outlook on life both in and out of work. Work-life balance is another topic for another day, but today I’m suggesting that anyone can be happy on their way to success, that there are small successes every day that should be celebrated, and that you needn’t live to work in order to find success. Happiness is success.