What’s Our Natural State? Working or Relaxing?

How are we meant to go through life?

To be working and hustling, with periodic breaks for relaxation?

Or is it more natural to be doing nothing, to be strolling along a beach, with periodic interruptions for work?

I think, in the U.S. at least, the answer is pretty clear. We value the hustler, the person who is always busy. And we frown upon the person who is content to sit back, spend a day reading, and who puts his or her work on the back burner.

But what if we had it backward?

What if we spent our mornings reading a good book or having a nice long coffee chat with an old friend? And what if we stopped working before the sun went down and went for a nice walk or had a beer or two with a colleague?

Would the world suddenly grind to a halt if we all cut our work hours in half, and doubled our leisure time? Would we be in a panic, not knowing how to fill that leisure time? Or would your levels of stress melt away, and you end up building more meaningful relationships with people? Would you take advantage of such freedom to volunteer or work on a creative venture, like a daily blog?

As our workplaces and tasks become more automated, such questions are likely to become more relevant. We may find ourselves working fewer hours and having more idle time. Such a prospect may terrify some people, while others may embrace it.

I guess your reaction depends on what you think is our natural state – to be in work mode or in relaxation mode.

As for me, I think I would be quite content to start my morning with a workout, followed by a leisurely breakfast and then some reading. Afterward, I’d be happy to spend a few hours volunteering at a local school teaching kids how to read and do math. By then it would be time to find an outdoor cafe and have a drink or two with friends and family. The evening could then be spent watching a good movie or reading a good book and then cap it all off writing my daily blog.

That may sound a lot like someone’s vision of retirement, but why wait until then to pursue such a life?

I think we can build a job around such a lifestyle, instead of trying to build a lifestyle around our job.

Again, it comes down to your fundamental belief as to whether we are meant to spend our time working or enjoying our leisure time.

In the end, it’s all a matter of balance; most of us need to spend time working and relaxing.

The question is, which one is your priority?


4 thoughts on “What’s Our Natural State? Working or Relaxing?

  1. Personally I have difficulty with the relaxation path. I’ve always been a working dog and down time doesn’t serve me well.
    I get the relax with a beer option but having a productive career is what completes me.
    Of course my career has always been long days and frequently filled with stress and through the years I have looked over the fence at those who could shut it off at day’s end I love what I do.
    My challenge at this point in time is trying to figure out what the next chapter will be.


    1. Hi John, I think the key is that you love what you do, and so you don’t mind putting in the hours. I’m sure living down at the shore you’ll find lots of ways to enjoy the next chapter of your life.


  2. Jim, this latest blog comes in my eighth month of retirement, and I had recently started to ponder the same questions. I wondered if I could stop working, and I had even presumed that I would continue to consult as a way to “stay in the game,” as I put it. When left to my own resources or my natural state, as you put it, I found that I have absolutely no drive to pursue additional sources of income. This is a bit surprising to me and my wife, because I was pretty driven at work (though NOT a workaholic, as too many people claim to be).
    As someone who worked in communications, I also derived a good deal of satisfaction from the artistic nature of my work,such as producing videos and writing articles and other copy. However, to my surprise, I am perfectly happy to go to bed whenever I want, get up at my leisure (several hours later than I did when I worked full time), and pursue my avocations, which currently consist of a cappella singing and stand-up comedy.
    I guess I am learning a similar lesson to that presented in the classic book, Lord of the Flies. When given the circumstances, we revert to our natural state. Mine is at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, a time of reflection and self-actualization. So I encourage others to plan properly for their retirements. It is a time of great opportunity!


    1. Pat, what a great testament to the power and beauty of retirement. I’ve still got a few years before I retire, but comments like yours make me look forward to it. I love how you compared your state to the top of Maslow’s pyramid. By the way, I enjoyed your blog post about the Oscar nominees; unfortunately, I have not seen any of them yet. We’ve been waiting for A Star Is Born to be available for rental. Thanks for getting me excited about retirement!


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