The Weakness of Work Ethic

If you shared my genetic make-up, you would likely have the incredible belief that you could do everything – simultaneously. It’s as if there are not enough days or months or years to accomplish everything (and there aren’t).

I often catch myself saying to The Bear, “I can only do one thing at a time.” Which is true. But I admit that I attempt to do these things back-to-back.

We call this ‘work ethic’. That the more interests we pursue and the harder we work, the greater we achieve or succeed. Of course, achievement and success are subjective. And the more we try to accomplish tends to be at the expense of something else. The idea of ‘work ethic’ also has moral implications – if you don’t work hard you are therefore lazy and a bad person. Of course, this is nonsense. In a capitalist system, it makes sense for a society to foster moral righteousness around working hard (thank you, Marx!).

But the idea of work ethic is SO ingrained that it is hard to resist. Which is why members of my family tend to use ever hour of the day working to be a good employee, marriage partner, student, teacher, sage, parent, daughter, sister, friend, community volunteer, athlete, activist, advocate, support network, cook, reader, writer, researcher, speaker, house cleaner, comedian, financier, gardener, nutritionist, etc.

Pile more things on my plate, we say. It will make me more involved, more dynamic, allow me to make a change in the world!

But our days are only so long. And each thing that we add takes away from something else that we are already committed. It’s time to learn to say ‘no’. To give ourselves permission to relax. To rejuvenate lost interests or relationships or causes. To reflect. To really ponder big decisions. To refocus. To sleep. To allow projects to take more time than previously planned.

Which is why MJ and I made the decision to not visit my parents this weekend. Because we are learning to better assess when there is too much going on. We are learning to say ‘no’.

Instead of saying to The Bear, “I can only do one thing at a time,” I am retraining myself to say, “I can’t do everything.”

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