Thoughts & Observations

The New Disparity Between Work and Life

There’s a new disparity between work and the rest of life.

In the past, the length of time that we expected to be in a job or a specific career was likely to match the timespan of the other commitments we wanted to make: we could plan to spend 30 years in a job, and also plan to spend 20 to 30 years paying for a house; 20 to 30 years raising kids; and 40 or more years in a marriage.

Planning in multi-decade increments felt comfortable because we could count on a job (and then some kind of retirement) to support us during that entire span of span of time.

Now, many of us still have those life goals (get married, own a home, have kids), but a lot fewer of us have a job or career that will be consistent over the same timespan. On average, people now stay in jobs for only 3 to 5 years, and that can be even shorter for Gen Y and for people involved in certain industries (like people in tech startups who seem to change jobs every six months to a year).

That leaves me with a question I haven’t quite found the answer to: how, exactly, are we supposed to go about making 20 to 30 year commitments to a house and raising kids when we can only see our future income six months, a year, or, at most, a couple years out?

 

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There’s Something Between All or Nothing

We tend to get caught in extremes.

It’s easier to categorize things that way. It’s easier to say that something is either simply good or bad then to come up with a complicated descriptive term that allows for it to be a little bit of both.

Our natural reaction when something doesn’t work also has a tendency towards extremes. We react to failure by swinging the pendulum in the complete opposite direction.

There are a lot of people (including me) who find themselves in this trap when it comes to how much impact they can have on the world. I find myself swinging back and forth at times between feeling like I can change the world and feeling like I can’t change anything.

But as a wise friend pointed out to me this morning, there is something in the middle.

In between doing nothing and changing the entire world, there is a lot that can be done.

Maybe I can’t change the entire world, but I can make one person’s life better.

It’s a simple thought and certainly not a new one, but it’s something that seems incredibly easy to forget as we all strive to add value to the world.