This is the second part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?
This section focuses primarily on the psychological punishment that is the modern career, and when you look at it from the context of the idea that our jobs fill most of our waking hours, it’s rather depressing. Part of the appeal of television for many adults is not as a recreation in and of itself, but a very effective way to completely unwind from the grindstone that is the day – and an hour or two of television before bed becomes the only respite of “life” that we get from our jobs.
There are a lot of aspects to this psychological punishment discussed here, and it’s worth noting several of them.
Demanding hours We start preparing for work the moment we get up, and by the time we’re done for the day, sleep is often not very far away. In other words, we place far more emphasis on earning a bit more money than we do on enjoying it.
Lack of self-direction The vast majority of people spend their day following the orders of others rather than fully directing their own work.
Caste system of employment Some jobs simply have more prestige than others, leaving people doing, say, carpentry work feeling inadequate next to doctors. Even if you spend your day in a punishing job, quite often it doesn’t bring a significant level of social pride.
Stress-related disorders Jobs with a high level of stress often result in more sickness. Even if you don’t get sick, the constant wear of the grind can easily add a level of lethargy to your life.
Spending and consumerism as a balm Even though we live with all of this in order to earn more money, often we just spend that money on consumer goods in order to “compress” our time for recreation. We desperately seek out that peak experience in the little slots we have left in our lives for actually living.
Happiness On top of all of that, the overall life leaves people feeling unhappy. Even more interesting, earning more money doesn’t lead to more happiness at all.
Many of these factors speak directly to my life. By the time my head hits the pillow at night, I often feel completely blitzed. After working, spending time with my family, and writing every day, there isn’t a whole lot of time left in an average day for recreation or even doing a lot of little things I’d like to do with my life.
However, like a lot of people, I feel tied to my employment in a lot of ways – the self-definition, the money, and other factors. I could quit my “real” job today to become a stay-at-home dad and we’d probably make it just fine – but there’s some little part of me deep inside that’s scared to make that leap. Perhaps that’s another factor – to many Americans, their job seems like what they’re supposed to be doing.
Tomorrow, we’ll keep going through the first chapter, focusing on the section “Prosperity and the Planet.” That section is on pages 9 through 21 in my paperback version of the book.