Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quality of Life is a Matter of Perspective

Good, honest and honorable work.
It’s funny how a little bit of living can change your perspective. Case in point, there’s this high school friend of mine. Smarter than me. More focused than me. He’s the kind of person who, if he puts his mind to something, can accomplish just about anything he wants. But for a long time I had a problem with him.
               After graduating, he didn’t continue on to get a college degree like me. Instead he entered the work force. He chose a profession I believed didn’t measure up to his potential. To my mind, he had what it took to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, corporate executive, or even start a business. Instead, he began working the kind of gig in which he put in his 40 hours a week and was done. There isn’t a lot of heavy lifting in his work mentally, and I guess that’s what troubled me. Because like I said, he’s smart. When I first heard what he was doing, I was disappointed in him and for years thought he could have done a lot better. That is, until I looked at his whole life and compared it with mine.
               On reflection, I look back at most of the jobs I’ve held with a fair measure of pride. Sure, I’ve had my share of employment misfires – jobs I didn’t like (or know) what I was doing. But once I found my niche, I was off to the races. A lot of my work is of a kind in which there’s not enough hours in the day to keep up. Lots of early mornings and late evenings and few nine-to-fives. Over the years, I’ve had to manage of people, oversee multiple projects, work against short deadlines and endure a good measure of uncertainty.
All work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) a dull person.
               Over time, I’ve become accustomed to the irregular pace and pay. About the only thing routine is it’s never routine. Different stuff all the time. In the end, I’d say my work is quite satisfying but it does make for a lot of stress sometimes.
               Then there’s my friend. What he does for a living could be described as quite the opposite, in my opinion. Words like mundane and boring come to mind. No cool stuff like traveling, meeting new people or helping the community. No real creativity involved. Just steady work, steady hours, steady pay. It’s the kind of scenario that would drive me crazy. Then I got to thinking about something else.
               When my friend punches out, he is off work. No evening meetings, no unexpected projects or unwanted business travel. He also has hobbies; several of them. Activities and interests he enjoys regularly. He can also go on vacation and not have to think about the work that’s piling up while he’s gone. Or worse, put in a few work hours each day he’s away (hurray for the Internet.).
The pleasures of mountain biking as a hobby.
After all these years I finally figured out my friend’s work to him is a means to an end. It’s a path to a way of being that allows him to pursue personal interests without having to constantly worry about what’s next at work. He always knows. Sure, like everyone else he worries about doing a good job, getting along with co-workers, and wonders if business slows will it cost him his livelihood. But those thoughts aren’t ever present in his mind like in mine.
               Bottom line: I think I hold greater job satisfaction, but wager he’d say he trumps me on peace of mind. He might have a point. Then again, it’s all a matter of perspective.

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