In a world living life in the “fast lane”, many will find it hard to achieve a balance between career and personal life. Most of one’s youth is spent trying to build themselves up professionally. And most of one’s old age is expected to be spent reaping the fruits of earlier labor. Yet, might there be more to the equation?
We know the impact which diet has on our health and life expectancy. We know that it is important to exercise. Also, more of us are learning the importance of emotional well-being and the role this plays in keeping us healthy physically and mentally for a long time. Thus, places such as Ikaria, Greece, where people live a long life, at a slower pace, in better communion with family and friends and in a less stressful manner show us that it is vital to have a healthy work-life as well as self-social balance. Based on the OECD Better Life Index 2016, examples of balanced work- life cultures are found in The Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Germany, the Russian Federation etc.
Europe seems to be making quite the effort to achieve the goal of equilibrium. And it is vital that it continues along this path. In doing so, it can learn from its and other’s mistakes and successes. For, in the end, what would be the point of a life spent running after prospects and comfort be if ultimately one has to use the remainder of their time searching for the best doctors to fix the health damaged in the process?
In the West, and especially in the US, where families move regularly to follow job prospects, where roots and identity are not as important, parents often live out the winter of their lives in financial independence, away from their children. Some pick up new hobbies, others travel more. Most North Americans and some Europeans are familiar with the concept of the children leaving home in order to relocate quite far away. This is the moment the husband and wife find themselves alone once more, such as they were in their youth.
It sounds like a good and independent life and it can be. Yet, for most, it is not a lifestyle which can be lived long term. While their time away from family might feel like a reliving of days gone by, circumstances have changed. They are no longer young or in the prime of their health.
Feeling as if one is on permanent holiday sounds wonderful indeed. However, in order to sustain the will to live and a good, healthy mental state one needs existential motivation. And they cannot get that by perpetuating the vacation feeling. Existential motivation is gained by being involved in personal and professional relationships, that is by being involved in family life and work. In other words, it is gained by purpose.
An interesting realization is therefore upon us. Firstly, it seems that if one needs to have a healthy life they have to balance work and personal life in their youth in such a way as to avoid burning themselves out or forgetting that work is, most of the time, a means to material and, in some cases, intellectual well-being, not the sole purpose of life. Still, this does not stop one’s work from giving motivation and meaning to their lives.
Secondly, time dedicated to family seems to keep one healthier, happier, and, emotionally and mentally stronger. This is not to say that one must never leave their childhood house, or that all family ties are the same. We are not referring to the exceptions or dangerous and toxic relationships. Our focus here is what we may define as normality. So, in this case, even though it might seem that living very far from family is nonconsequential or even beneficial, it seems the effect is exactly the opposite in the long run.
Therefore, it looks as if in order for stability to exist throughout one’s life they need to maintain and develop meaningful family relationships and, as counterintuitive as it may be, keep working. Whether it is their careers, a new endeavor, or working in some sort of project where one can use their expertise and have the freedom to plan their own schedule, most likely at a more leisurely pace, it is important for people to contribute their hard-achieved wisdom and experience to society. This would be mutually beneficial for individuals and communities since successful and long-lasting civilizations are built on the wisdom and experience of the old and the energy and passion of the young.
Loving “the fast life” is a trait of our period, and probably the best exported good of Hollywood, which makes it one of the most the most consumed entertainment products among the young generations. Yet, just as it was when the world realized “slow food” is healthier than “fast food”, perhaps it is time to let go of “fast living” for the benefits of “slow living”.
After all, it is not possible to have an emotionally and morally stable world in an environment where interpersonal relationships lose ground, socialization becomes homework and family life becomes a façade. Such an environment breeds instability. And, most likely, it is in the interest of the human race to look forward to a stable future.