Thursday, 6 August 2015

Do You Really Need A Job?

One of those things that many people believe, is that they need a job in order to survive. Obviously, they may argue, you need money in order to pay the bills. And bills are an inescapable fact of life. Only if you can gather enough money in your lifetime, can you really be free...

While all this seems quite logical, we have to ask ourselves: is this really true?

Of course it may be true if you want to live like the average person and have what the average person has, but it is certainly not the only way to live. There are alternatives, especially if freedom is more important to you than wealth, comfort and securities; and if experiences are more important to you than possessions. Freedom may even be easier to realize with little or no money. All it takes is some life skills and a completely different mindset (freedom of mind). And then you may discover that you don't need a job after all.

Probably most people have felt the pressure of society's expectations (not just in the domain of employment) and have dreamed about somehow managing to escape all of this at some point in their lives. When given a choice, I think most people would choose to be free to decide what it means to them to live a meaningful life instead of being molded into an acceptable societal format from a very young age by various means (upbringing, education, employment, ...).

Of course it is impossible and even undesirable to block all external influences. It can be very helpful to see how others handle certain life situations and witness different ways of being. It only becomes a problem when you accept it as the norm and stop questioning the attitudes and behaviors that are modeled to you; copying them blindly and losing your own integrity in the process. This happens when people don't take enough time to reflect on their lives; when they don't spend enough time just being; enjoying the silence. Then you keep the ability to choose your own way; to see all the alternative ways of being as options and to perceive no general right or wrong; just a 'right' or 'wrong' for your particular situation. And then it is also easy to learn and unlearn attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and habits. Without attachment to certain ways of thinking, the mind is free.

But it is almost like our lives are being filled up for us with distractions on purpose. School when we are young, work when we get older. In the meantime, TV, Facebook, alcohol, movies, games, smartphones and the news seem designed to keep us worried, dependent and distracted. And we have learned to appreciate the distractions in the world: we learn to keep ourselves distracted all the time and we learn to fear silence, perhaps because in the silence we may discover the madness of it all and the emptiness of our existence. So we keep ourselves (and each other) in a busy state - afraid we might stop functioning if we don't - which makes it almost impossible to stay connected with ourselves, with each other and with the world as a whole.

Perhaps you are even one of those people who doesn't know anymore what happiness means to you, or what really brings you joy in life. Perhaps you don't know what enthuses you or what your passions are. This is a serious affliction that needs your attention right away. I know, because I have suffered from it for years. Looking back I did know what my passions were (self-sufficiency, exploring, traveling, living the nomadic lifestyle), but I just felt that I couldn't do that because I needed to earn a living. I needed to 'grow up' and settle down (that is what society dictates).

So it may be that you have completely lost your way and forgotten who you are, because you have been corrected for following your own path; something that children do naturally (they follow their passions and interests without worrying about where it might take them or what is expected of them - this is how we evolve and grow).

But you are still free to make decisions for yourself. So it is never too late to change your life around.

There may be fear holding you back as well. Not just fear of not having enough money to look after yourself or your family, but perhaps also a fear of 'doing nothing' (which we frantically avoid by keeping ourselves busy). You may fear that you will get lazy if you don't have a job. You may fear that having a job is the only way you can keep contributing 'something' to society (whether valuable or not). You may wonder: How can I fulfill my need to make a difference and to contribute to society without a job?

Well, there are plenty of ways to contribute to the world we live in or to each other in a positive way, without getting paid for it, or at least without a particular job title or working for some organization. You can contribute by taking care of the earth, planting trees, planting edible plants, composting, and no longer producing trash. You can contribute by helping others who are less able, or teaching others important life skills. You can contribute by meditating and thereby being a counter-force for all the disconnectedness in the world. You can role-model self-sufficiency. You can be one of those people with actual relationship skills, a rare breed, and teach others how to interact with each other in a loving and compassionate way.

It is a natural tendency for people (and other animals and nature in general) to want to enrich others' lives when their own needs are met. But it is hard to really fulfill your own needs when you have a regular job and so many other distractors, which then makes it impossible to attend to others' needs. With a full-time job, especially one that you don't enjoy, there is not much time left for relaxation and reflection, self-development, connecting meaningfully with others or simply enjoying the silence and the magic of being. These things may even be considered 'a waste of time'. Also, most jobs involve a lot of stress (sadly largely due to the mindset of needing the money and feeling forced to do the job, without any room for choice), which brings an additional need for recovery-time, but even after working hours there is often a lingering sense of insecurity, dependence or even imprisonment.

So if you still have a job and you continually feel restrained or miserable because you are not fully living the life you desire, then it may be time to rethink your priorities.

Imagine you would be able to quit your job today without having to worry about money anymore. Do you think you will get lazy? Or will you spend your days doing all those things you always wanted to do, but never had the time to do? Do you think you will help your neighbor if s/he asks you to help out with something, or will you tell him/her that you don't have time because you didn't even have time to complete your own checklist for the day? I think it will be far more likely that you will help others and be a valuable member of society if you are free to create your own life, than when you are technically employed and making money but feeling imprisoned, exhausted and impoverished on the inside.When you are free of the stresses of obligation, it leaves you with way more resources to take care of your needs, so that you can subsequently extend your care to others as well.

To determine whether you should consider an alternative way of life and quit your job (or drastically reduce your hours), contemplate the following questions:
1. Do you get a sense of fulfillment from your job most of the time?
2. Does your job and the company contribute to something good in the world, according to you? What kind of resources are used by your company? And what are the consequences of the existence of the company on the world? What are the consequences for the environment, trees, plants, people and other animals (or fill in other things you value)? For example, what kind of jobs does it create for others and would you consider that fulfilling work or more some kind of 'slave labor'? Remember Confucius: “Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you.”
3. What kind of product or service does your company produce? Does it fill an important need, or is it just filling a void?
4. Taking all of the above into account, is what you do in line with your personal values? Does it make you feel good about yourself and what you do?
5. Do you enjoy hanging out with your employer, colleagues, etc? Are they inspiring? Do they stir up a sense of aliveness in you?
6. If you would no longer get paid for your job, would you still be doing it? And if not, do you know what you would do instead?
7. And finally, you can try the grandmother/children test: If your grandmother/child/someone else you love and respect asked you all about the ins and outs of what you do, could you tell them with honor, dignity and self-respect? Would they be proud of you?

If you answered any of these questions with 'no', or 'maybe', then it may be time to reconsider your life choices. You may come to the conclusion that you want or even need to reduce your hours or simply quit your job. But how? There are (at least) two options when you want to change your life. You can do these in combination with quitting your job / changing jobs / reducing your hours (=> stop prioritizing income above all else).

1. Start living your passion, start your own business and make money doing something you love and value. If you also quit your job, then this could involve some big risks, especially if there is a lot at stake (if you have a house, a family to support, etc) that requires money to maintain. Of course the less you have, the easier it is, as you have nothing to lose (yet another advantage of not focusing on stuff in life, but rather on experiences).
If becoming your own boss without losing sight of what matters in life seems like the way to go for you, then it might be interesting for you to read Tim Ferriss' 4 hour workweek. Actually, it will be an interesting read no matter what you decide. The audiobook may be available for free on Youtube.

2. Cut (the need for) money out of your life completely for a while (or gradually move towards a moneyless, more self-sufficient lifestyle): the end goal can be to enjoy a nomadic lifestyle or build a basic home to settle somewhere.
This is a very empowering and fulfilling path to explore. Giving  up money, whether done instantly or gradually, is like quitting an addiction, because money is something that we have collectively become dependent on and addicted to. When you challenge yourself to stop using it for a while, even just in some areas of your life, you notice how often you use it. So teach yourself independence and self-sufficiency. Learn how to survive from edible wild plants, and just from natural sources. Find the best place to live considering your needs and preferences. Wean yourself off all the other modern addictions and comforts and find yourself richer than ever in the simplicity of connection and engagement. When the distractions are gone, this is what will remain.

When brainstorming about what to choose, make sure you don't limit yourself with habitual thinking and excuses (for example: "I can never do this, because I have a family"). Things may seem impossible at first, but if you take it step-by-step, you will see that life will support you in all kinds of unsuspected ways.

In case you are not convinced yet, here's what you owe to yourself:
1. Enjoy your life. Spend it with people who are uplifting and inspiring, doing what you love.
2. Free yourself of the stresses of (unnecessary) obligation and having a miserable job. You don't deserve to spend most of your life in prison! And this is what it is actually like if you have a job that you don't enjoy.
3. Be your own boss (whether you get paid for it or not), at least in your mind. Make your own decisions. No one likes to be told what to do. You may even have 'problems with authority' (and a strong need for autonomy). This is actually a sign of high intelligence. Perhaps it is time to hit the road or learn the power of refusal.

A quote by the Dalai Lama (when asked what surprises him most about humanity) sums this post up beautifully:
“Man…sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

I am interested to hear which of the two options (start your own business or (gradually) learn to be more self-sustainable) appeals to you most! Let me know in the comments below, and why, or comment on this post via my Facebook page.

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  1. I actually really enjoyed this article. I didnt think I would because it started off sounding a bit new age out there but you made some really insightful comments and Im pleased I took the time to read it - thanks

  2. Great post. I quit my job in December (I'm 54) and am now taking a year out (along with my Wife) to see the World. Now I'm out of the work thing it's easy to look back and realise how you can become trapped in a mundane cycle. Now I'm starting to think of something new and inspiring for my return. Who knows where a world tour can take you....

    1. That sounds like a great adventure, Chris! :)

  3. Great post! Im always thinking about ways of living with more freedom. May be its possible to make a mix of be more auto-sustainable life with few hours of work or a small business, because it´s not always easy to make a business that generates big outcomes, and maybe is not easy to live totally off the grid too. Thanks for the ideas and best regards from Uruguay!

    1. Thank you for your comment :) Yes, that is definitely possible! Small steps is always easier than taking the big leap. I started small too; gradually reducing my bills and then finally eliminating them. I still have a job now (for at least another year or so), but after that I would like to move totally off-grid.