Posted by: jackslife | June 9, 2009

The Work of Being Happy

I have been thinking a lot obout how happy the “work” that we American mind workers do really makes us.  Erin, who is filling in for Rod on the Crunchy Con blog, has a post that discusses an article by Pico Iyer on what is really important in troubled times.  I think he rightly points out that we would all be happier with a little “less” in our lives.

So — as post-1960s cliché decreed — I left my comfortable job and life to live for a year in a temple on the backstreets of Kyoto. My high-minded year lasted all of a week, by which time I’d noticed that the depthless contemplation of the moon and composition of haiku I’d imagined from afar was really more a matter of cleaning, sweeping and then cleaning some more. But today, more than 21 years later, I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack.

I often ponder how much happier I am when I scrap the TV and video games and spend time in reading and in my garden. These times seem so much more satisfying, but for some reason I keep coming back to the time suckers. I also find that the stress of work can really mount at times and take away from the time that I spend with family and in other worthwhile pursuits. Erin has this to say –

And there are people who make other sacrifices for a job, too: working increasingly insane hours, moving across the country, being on call around the clock, accepting the encroachment of one’s work into what ought to be one’s leisure time, and the like. None of these things are new, and none are completely avoidable; in a weak economic situation like we find ourselves in now, though, it becomes harder and harder to justify seeking any sort of work-life balance. Work is supposed to be the only thing that matters, and people are supposed to be too busy thanking their lucky stars that they still have a job to realize that they no longer have a life.

I think this is a great point.  The work/life balance is indeed a delicate one, but I think we would do well to find any way possible to push more time into the “life” category, or at least to make sure that we reserve our “life” time for life.  I’m all too guilty of taking my work home with me.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my wife.



  1. Great post. I agree that finding balance between work and “life” is important. I’m very blessed to have a job I can usually leave at the door and not think about again until 8am. I realize this isn’t the case for a lot of people, especially right now with all the added pressure of a stagnant economy and record unemployment rates.

    Obviously we’ve spoken many times about trying to limit the time spent watching TV or on the computer, instead opting to spend time with family, reading or just getting outside and it’s an ongoing battle. I’d be doing a lot better if it weren’t for sports. I’ve been catching a lot of Rangers games lately and the NBA Finals on top of that. Once the Finals are over, I’m hoping to set better boundaries for myself.

  2. Wife confirms 🙂

    Good post. The constant struggle I find in myself over this reminds me just how inclined our flesh is to choose what is easy, and essentially bad for us – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

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