A picture of a wizard casting a spell over people working at a table with their computers.

Why Does a Job Have Such Power Over Us?

As regular readers know, I left corporate life to start my own business. Since that time, when I am asked what I do, I tend to respond that I am an entrepreneur. I kind of get an eyeroll from my wife every time I say that. One day she said, “Why not also say sometimes that you are semi-retired?”

She is right, I am trying to live a more flexible life, outside the confines of a traditional career. My hesitation goes back to the importance that a job has for me and my identity. I am not alone. A career for many is a defining element of their life. For about 50 percent of those taking the Retirement Time Analysis, their profession IS the main purpose in their life.

So why do our jobs have so much power over us?  Let’s put that to the test and see where you come down on the scale.

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The Financial Necessity

At its core, a job provides the financial resources we need to survive and thrive. Rent or mortgage payments, groceries, transportation – all have a price tag. The fear of losing this essential security can be a powerful motivator, often leading us to prioritize work over other aspects of life. This is especially true in cultures with limited social safety nets or for individuals with dependents.

Where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?

00 = I totally need to work for the money.

10 = I am set, I could retire today.

The Structured Time

A career provides us with a natural sense of structure. If you are working a 48 hour a week job, just about 40 percent of your awake time is dedicated to your career. Take the career away and how does that make you feel?

Where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?

00 = I can’t manage my time at all.

10 = I totally manage my time.

Our Work Defines Us

Beyond finance and time, work can shape our sense of self-worth and identity. Many professions offer a sense of accomplishment, mastery, and the ability to contribute to a larger purpose.  Surgeons saving lives, engineers building bridges, teachers shaping young minds – these roles provide a level of meaning and purpose that transcends simply earning a paycheck.

Where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?

00 = Without a job, I have no clue what to do with my life.

10 = My work has no bearing on my self-worth.

People chained to their desks while working on a computer.

A Place for Social Connectivity

The workplace can also be a source of social connection and belonging.  Colleagues can become friends, confidantes, and a source of support.  The camaraderie and shared experiences fostered within a work environment can be a powerful motivator to show up and invest our time.

Where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?

00 = All of my social connections are from work.

10 = None of my social connections are from work.

The FOMO Factor

Modern work culture often glamorizes the concept of being constantly busy.  The pressure to be “always on,” to network endlessly, and to climb the corporate ladder can create a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  We worry that taking a break or prioritizing personal time will leave us behind or jeopardize our career prospects.

Where would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10?

00 = I am afraid of what I would miss if I left work.

10 = I will not miss anything from work.

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Let’s See How You Did

Go back to each section, record and then add up your scores. Here is a chart to help.

A chart allowing you to calculate your score from the questions asked in the article.

Think about your total amount in this context.

  • 00 – 20: Your job has a lot of power in your current life. Figure out ways you can become more time flexible to enjoy more of the personal side of life.
  • 21 – 30: You recognize there are things in life that can change to not diminish your job but be curious about how personal elements can become more important.
  • 31 to 40: Cool, you probably have a healthy dose of work-life flexibility. You can draw into a lot of personal experiences while still getting enjoyment from work.
  • 41 to 50: Nice! Your job is not an instrument to control your actions, or you have no job and are living a purposeful life.

By acknowledging the reasons why jobs hold such power over us and employing effective time management strategies, we can begin to reclaim control. It’s about finding flexibility – fulfilling our professional obligations while ensuring enough time and energy for leisure, relationships, and personal growth.

Remember, your job is just one facet of your life, albeit an important one. By creating a more holistic schedule and prioritizing your well-being, you can ensure that work serves you, not the other way around.

David Buck is the author of the book The Time-Optimized Life, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at dave@kmstime.com or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.

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