‘Working to Live’ or ‘Living to Work’?

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Last updated on March 31st, 2021 at 03:39 am

Us Torontonians are very strange beasts. A while back, I spoke about one of the questions you’ll hear more often than not in our fair city when two people are meeting for the first time:

“What do you do?”

We have developed a society around ourselves where we base our value, personalities and expectations upon the jobs that we have more so than any other aspect of our lives.

Here in Toronto, we love to work.

Maybe a little too much.

Like it or not—and this stands for just about anyone doing a job in the “developed world”—many of us live for our jobs, let it work its way into many of our thoughts… even when we dream.

We use our jobs to relate to other another and add value to our perceptions of people:

  • That’s Tim; he’s a doctor.
  • That’s Shelley; she’s a lawyer.

But what do titles really tell us about people? If you took three random people from a sample of individuals, it might look something like this:

Person A might be a father of two who plays croquet on the weekends and makes a mean chocolate upside-down cake that can serve 20, but we call him Joe the Banker.

Person B might be an aspiring thespian, used to play in a punk band in high school and gives the best life advice possible, but is often introduced as Margaret. She works at Sephora.

Person C has travelled the world, volunteered to help more marginalized people than one could imagine, and has been happily with his partner for ages. But we see Charlie as been “in-between jobs”.

It’s kind of messed up, really. That the only thing we see as differentiating us from one another just happens to be the thing we do for 40 or so hours a week, often dreading going in to do it. I don’t introduce myself as Casey the Civil Servant; I just often introduce myself as Casey Palmer. Why would I want to be defined by my job?

We need to STOP.

We are NOT our jobs Somewhere along the line, we got it all twisted around—jobs need people to work them; you do not necessarily need your job!

Now before we make a mass exodus from our cubicles or strike for working conditions that better meet our personal interests, let’s not be so hasty!

Despite the fact that many of us toil away at jobs that might not be the most enjoyable, in a number of ways, they’re traps of our own design!

You are responsible for:

  • Making sure you continue to grow in your career;
  • Making the most out of your days;
  • Maintaining a balance between your workload and the rest of your life;
  • Networking to grow a community of friends and colleagues around you

…and these are just examples of what you can do to start making the move from living to work to working to live.

Working to live is all about using the money and experiences that you get from your job to enhance everything else you do with your time. Without using each facet of your life to improve yourself and develop whoever it is that you see yourself wanting to be, you’re doing yourself an injustice. Sometimes, it can’t be helped. There will be the days where you work the long hours. Or the days where you just have no motivation whatsoever to get the things done that need doing. But fight the good fight and work with a specific goal in mind… and you know what?

I think you’ll find yourself working to lead the life you want in no time.

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad


By Casey E. Palmer

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey‘s spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he’ll use whatever’s around him to create amazing stuff.

When he’s not creating, he’s parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him.

Because a boring life’s not a life worth living!

2 replies on “‘Working to Live’ or ‘Living to Work’?”

Hmm…makes me wonder if asking people, “so, what do you do?” is just a Western cultural thing? Do people not ask this question in other parts of the world?

I agree, we’re much deeper than our paid employment – but how do we avoid using that as a conversation starter when we’re making small talk with someone new? It’s where we spend so much of our time – where we enjoy it or not – so it’s a natural place to start a conversation.

When people ask me what I do, I typically start off by briefly telling them that I work for “The Man” but go on to tell them about my union/activist/community work. It’s not what brings home the bacon, but it’s what I’m known for, it’s what helps the community and (hopefully) it’s what will make me a household name someday 😛

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