“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” -Annie Dillard
First, take a few moments to answer this question:
When you reflect on the month of September at work, did you love your work more often than you dreaded it? Did you jump out of bed with purpose more often than you wished the alarm would silence? Did you feel more excited and inspired versus depleted and tired?
This blog is dedicated to exploring your honest answers to the prompts above. Last month’s blog was about whether your leadership would survive the vacation test. How many of us have returned from vacation and dreamed of escaping permanently and living out our days on a tropical island somewhere?
Guess what? The secret to longevity, not just in our careers but in our lives, is the opposite of the eternal vacation. Psychology Today published an article recently sharing that those who “escape the rat race” and live carefree without many work commitments are prone to die earlier.
“Those who live longest have important and meaningful careers and are especially productive.” As Friedman and Martin state, “Striving to accomplish your goals, setting new aims when milestones are reached, and staying engaged and productive are exactly what those following the guideposts to a long life tend to do. The long-lived didn’t shy away from hard work for fear that the stress of it would lead to an early demise; the exact opposite seems true!”
There are, of course, negative impacts of stress from a job that you don’t love and a place you go every day where you feel more overworked than valued. In Japan, they have a term called karoshi – which is defined as “death by overwork.” In order for work to contribute to longevity, you have to love it more often than not.
“Work is an essential ingredient for a happy life, and now research proves that working hard in a field that you love will give your life meaning and purpose. Productive work keeps you active; it challenges you to continue learning and to strive towards mastery.”
Have you heard of Blue Zones? It is purpose-driven research to learn from the happiest and longest-living populations on the planet. In a recent discovery, it was found that spending time in environments of trust is critical to longevity. In the newest Blue Zone, Singapore, it was found that trust in the workplace was more important than income.
Research shows the average American will spend 100,000 hours at work over a lifetime. If these are hours spent mostly doing something we love that is purpose driven, working even one year past retirement age, according the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, is associated with a 10% lower risk of dying in the 10 years after retirement.
Boston College Center for Retirement Research found that after a tax policy change in The Netherlands encouraging older workers to stay in the labor force longer caused increased life expectancy. Men between the ages of 62-65 who worked longer, experienced on average, an additional 6 months to live compared to the control group.
I want to close with this as a reminder of how many moments you are adding to your life through your purpose driven work:
“But then I realized what can happen in a mere 6 seconds.
In 6 seconds, you can kiss someone like you mean it. In 6 seconds, you can hold open a door. In 6 seconds, you can wait for a straggler to catch up. “Take your time,” you can even say.
In 6 seconds, you can take a deep breath.
In 6 seconds, you can let it go.
In 6 seconds, you can tuck a note into a lunchbox or a pocket. It takes 2 seconds to draw a heart.
In 6 seconds you can say you are sorry.
In 6 seconds, you can cut yourself some slack.
In 6 seconds, you can throw away that picture, that outfit, that inner bully that keeps you from loving this day, this you.
In 6 seconds you can feel the sunshine.
In 6 seconds, you can decide it is time to stop looking back and maybe even whisper to someone, “it is going to be ok” to yourself or someone who is scared.
I used to be a broken record, “I don’t have time” I would always say.
But then I realized what could happen in a mere 6 seconds.
It is enough to make a bad day good …
It is enough to bring life back to weary bones ..
It is enough to realize what really matters amidst so much that doesn’t.
It is enough to change the future.”
-Rachel Macy Stafford
To all of you hard-working, purpose-driven leaders, you will be around longer than many because you care about what your work and those you serve. Thank you for your dedication to loving what you do. I appreciate you spending your days, your hours and your seconds, making this world a better place.