Why do you work so hard? Some of the immediate answers are obvious: so you and your immediate family don’t starve to death or die from the cold whilst living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere and so that you can pay your taxes and keep the government off your back — but aside from that, you work so that you don’t have to. Sure, you might be one of those lucky few who enjoy their work but ultimately you work so that you do not have to. So that you can enjoy your retirement but also so that you can enjoy your weekends and holidays until then.
It’s important to separate yourself from what you do, and just as it is important it can also be extremely difficult. Why wouldn’t it be? You spend so many long hours immersed in your work life for years of your adult life, conditioning yourself to be the best you can be at it that finding the dividing point between work and personal can become very blurred. Where does that line between you are your job begin and end? It’s rarely when the clock hits 5 PM. Even when you’re going about your daily life outside of work, it beckons to you still like some nagging siren on a rocky, mythical shoreline. You get the calls, the e-mails and even your own mind chiming in to remind you of things to do and reviewing things you’ve done.
It’s not always easy to recognise success when it doesn’t come in a form that you’re used to
So, how do you do it? Firstly, you have to want to do it. You have to want to reclaim yourself in your own time from what you do with it when you’re paid to. You might be good at what you do for a living, you might even be the best — but even so, you are more than your career. You are more than just one thing. You’re a multifaceted and multi-talented creature just like every other one of your species, no matter how much success you might have found in a specific field of expertise. Not only can you be good at more than one thing but more importantly you can enjoy more than one thing and find success in it.
It’s not always easy to recognise success when it doesn’t come in a form that you’re used to, such as a commendation, pay rise or simply even just praise from another person. This kind of success doesn’t need external validation. This is the kind of success that isn’t just measured in empirical evidence like money but instead in the greater currency of satisfaction, joy and happiness- and as we have all long been told, although money can sometimes help us along the way to those things, it can’t buy them.
This kind of success doesn’t need external validation
It doesn’t matter what you do that enables you to find happiness, it just matters that you go looking for it in order to find it. It could be starting a small passion project business close to your interests, it could be helping out your local community or doing charity work, making music in your garage, playing tennis, doing a spot of gardening or even just relaxing in a deck chair and watching clouds pass by overhead and taking guesses as to what they best resemble. Allow yourself the freedom to do what you want in your free time, or try something completely new, you earned it. You work hard to be able to afford to enjoy the time that you aren’t working, and that’s something that many of us often forget or just lose track of in and amongst the multitude of our other responsibilities.
There are so many routes to happiness and while many of them are the same for most people you shouldn’t be afraid to try niche roads less taken that might suit you on a more individual level. And when you find something that makes you happiness, enjoy the moment. Relish and appreciate it. Don’t constantly question whether there’s anything you can do to make it better like the alcoholic philosophy that maybe if you have keep having another drink, maybe you’ll also perpetually and indefinitely have more fun. Happiness is like a painting that at some point you must realise doesn’t need any more brush strokes. It’s ready to be admired. Enjoy it for what it is and appreciate it while it lasts. You worked for it.
So switch off that phone already and go do something that makes you happy!
Originally published at medium.com