Hard Work is a Tool, Not a Goal

Sun 22 March 2015 | tags: Health

At times, I feel as though I am stating the obvious. But, many people refuse to embrace the fundamental concepts which have lead to an authentic state of well being. It is a good place to be, and I would like more people to experience it.

There is only one higher aim than attaining ideal health. This is because the quality of your health dictates the quality of the rest of your life. I will leave the most important accomplishment for another day.

I have watched too many of my friends fall into a cycle of endless hard work. Worse yet, they think this is a good thing. Although there are many reasons why this is destructive, the primary problem is that overworking yourself for long periods of time always harms your health.

The first and most fundamental restriction of your body and mind is your overall state of well being. If you are not decently healthy and well rested, you will not attain a state of well being. Everybody has experienced at least short term illness and knows that accomplishing goals while sick is very difficult. If the illness is serious enough, your entire existence will be dedicated to fighting it off. You will make no progress on any goal outside the biological drive to continue life.

There are many levels of health. Most people are happy with the level of health they need to succeed in their jobs and relationships. This is why many people are satisfied living with sub-ideal health. Restrictions in range of motion may not affect your ability to work at a desk. However, when ignored long enough, most health problems will become worse, until they actually do manifest a restriction in your lifestyle. That loss of range of motion is a step down the path to chronic pain. Happiness is more difficult to achieve in a state of continuous pain.

A sure sign that you are working too hard is experience of continuous fatigue. A sustained state of fatigue will devastate your health. An authentic state of well being is not possible within a state of continuous fatigue.

I do not work long hours, except in very rare circumstances. I do not see any value in working long hours. It is not a reflection of work ethic. It is a a symptom of a deeply mis-shapen value system. Usually, it is corporate interests which are driving people to work longer hours. Give more of your soul to this machine of infinite extraction and you will eventually find yourself in a state of complete disarray.

It would be easy to accuse me of being lazy. Personally, I do not care if you think I am lazy, because I know that I live in a state of well being and continuous growth - and that is much more valuable than your opinion. I am not going to bother explaining why I am not lazy, because that is also unimportant in comparison to the fact I stated above.

Working hard is not a valuable goal. Achieving health and well being is. Hard work may, sometimes, be a useful tool while following this path.

Skilled athletes understand that there is a strict restriction on their work capacity. Pushing past that work capacity causes injury, and therefore has a negative impact on their athletic performance. This is true both short term and long term. World class athletes are in tune with their body and understand how far to push to gain the response they need from their training. Pushing any harder than that is worse than a waste of time. It is harmful.

In some cases, an athlete can benefit from pushing, pushing HARD. This is reserved for moments of performance and competition. In some work environments, there is an appropriate time to sacrifice your time and energy. However, like an athlete, we must remember that such pushing is not the goal. The goal is sustained performance and gradual improvement over a long and happy career. I repeat, the goal is not to work hard. The goal is to achieve well being and higher levels of mastery.

The same is true in the workplace. There is nothing impressive to me about writing code for 50 hours per week. In fact, it deters me from wanting to work with you, because you have fallen into a trap. This trap is sucking the meaning from your life, it is harming your body, and it is not helping you write better software. The only thing it is helping is the bank account of the company you work for. It is not worth it.

Obviously this concept applies outside the software world. Most industries in the current economy pretend to reward people who work harder than they should. This is nothing more than the ice cold extraction of value from your body and mind, fueling the fire of endless expansion which lives at the core of capitalism today.

Every individual must decide where the boundaries of their work capacity lie. This is not about how much work you can do before you start making mistakes that cause more harm than good for your company. This is about how much work you can do while prioritizing your health and well being.

There is no point in fighting the inner turmoil caused by overwork, unless you truly value the pockets of top corporate executives over your own well being. Remember, your health is more important than the relentless quest for profit. It is more important than the mass transfer of wealth to the upper class. It is more important than the unsustainable goal of endless expansion.