To enable most people to enjoy their lives, we have to change our economic system. A more sustainable economy would not require as much work as our current economy because we don’t have to produce stuff nobody really needs. People working in a sustainable economy may still not love their jobs (after all who loves to clean toilets or pick up the trash) but since we’d be able to balance making money with all the other stuff we want to do, it wouldn’t matter so much. If I’d only have to work 10 hours/week at my job, I’d probably not hate it. There are a lot of interconnections here that I am only touching on but one thing is clear: If we want to maximize the number of people who are living the good life – an authentic life connected with community, we have to change our definition of success. We cannot create jobs people love within the current paradigm.
Got your attention, didn’t I? Well, don’t expect me to tell you how to do it because I am beginning to realize that these schemes are unrealistic. I’ve found several people who offer their advice online – how you can change your life, do what you love, and make tons of money. They found their niche, which might not even be a niche since I suspect most people don’t particularly like their job. So, if you can offer people some rambling about how they can do what they’ve ever dreamed of doing, you can probably make a good living. There won’t be a shortage of people trying to find that golden egg. The problem, which took me several e-books to realize, is that these change gurus neglect the system side. If everybody in this society wanted to do what they really loved, the whole capitalist system would collapse. Our growth orientation is not sustainable unless millions of us work at meaningless jobs to get money so we can buy stuff in an attempt to fill the void that is created by working too much. As individuals, we can create work we love but I doubt that most of us will get paid a lot for it (nobody has offered to pay me for blogging…). That is a fine approach if you’re also interested in creating a sustainable life, which will again undermine the capitalist system (in this case, that’s part of the point). Instead of attacking the system side and fighting for shorter hours, part-time options, more vacation and sick time, as well as universal health care and other parts of a safety net virtually non-existent in the US, these people tap into our desire to work less and earn more and have fun while doing it. It might work for them because people who want meaningful work but have no idea on how to monetarise their hobbies are desperate to get help (you’ve probably guessed that I fell into that category). But there’s a flaw in their logic – aside from leaving out the important system side – if you’d really love your work, you don’t mind working long hours. I just listened to a talk by Phil Zimbardo about his new time-related research. This guy is a retired professor and still works hard. Why? Because he loves what he does! Shorter hours only are desirable when you don’t like what you’re doing. If you love your work, you’ll have to carefully balance work so that you make time for other things.