You’ve Been Conditioned to Work Your Whole Life

Most people have been conditioned to work their entire lives. It starts from the younger years, when children first attend school. They’re expected to be at school at a certain time, and if not it affects their attendance on their report cards. They don’t get out until 3-4pm, and then they may even have some extracurriculars that require them to attend school earlier or later. Even then, their days don’t end. They’re expected to do homework and study to keep up with exams. This extends to undergraduate and graduate studies, when they may even have a part-time job and other responsibilities. And then once they land a job, especially if they follow the masses of getting a full-time position, they end up spending pretty much most of their days the same. All for what? So that they can someday retire? One day, they become old, riddled with health issues, unable to do the things that they could have done in their prime years. Several years, wasted. Is this how life is meant to be lived?

If you think about it, a lot of jobs are actually quite unnecessary for surviving life. To survive life, we have a few necessities. We need food and water, maybe clothing, some shelter… Depending on where you live, you need a way to stay warm, or a way to stay cool. You may need medicine or treatment to keep your health up. But otherwise, things like music or designer bags or even cars are unnecessary. But in the man-made working world, more things have become illusioned as necessities. Suddenly, you need professional clothes or uniforms for your job. You need a car to get to work, and to travel for work-related purposes. You need to pay for everyone’s dinner to keep up with your status. You need a degree to work your way up the ladder. You need makeup to look presentable. You need a smartphone to access your banking app. You need a nice dress and evening bag for your boss’ daughter’s wedding reception. You need a gym membership and a personal trainer to fit a certain body aesthetic that is “pleasing” to others. Society feeds into this illusion that you need all of these things. If you step back, you will see it all, as if you’ve been participating as an entertainer in a worldwide circus.

It’s crazy because of the way society is built, people engage in leisure at the expense of so many others, counting the days down of when they’ll finally be able to “escape”. Think about it. If you go to see a movie, there’s the ticket seller, the concession stand seller (the person who sells snacks and drinks), the security officer, the janitor… And then there’s the movie itself: the paid actors, the directors, the sound designers, the producers, etc. You get your ticket to enjoy something projected on a screen, and maybe a bucket of refillable popcorn. And what do you watch? Someone going to “work”. Someone falling in love… but it’s not even real. It’s made up.

You go to a cafe to enjoy a cup of coffee or (bubble) tea. There’s the cashier, and the person making your drinks, and some customers who are on a business meeting. And then there’s you, casually just enjoying a drink. You can say it’s a “need” because as a human, you require calories in the form of food or drinks. But it’s also a want, because you could just make coffee or tea at home. Maybe you say it’s expensive or time-consuming to make bubble tea from scratch at home. Sure. But someone made it for you. It was made by some company, gaining profits from selling such products in bulk to various cafes across the nation, or even the world. And they hire so many people to manufacture and distribute the product. And then there’s the accountants, the marketers, the producer designers… And all for what, so you can enjoy a drink? Isn’t it wild how many people are involved in the process? Toiling away at their jobs, day in and day out, for your pleasure.

“So what?” you may think, “We all work, and once in a while we exchange that work for pleasure.” But do we ALL really live this way? Have you ever thought of the small percentage of people who don’t work but somehow have resources to do pretty much whatever they want? Have you ever wondered why only a few people are allowed such “luxury”? Isn’t it insane how we were programmed to think of time as a luxury vs. a right of life? Why can’t we all engage in a leisurely life?

…most of you reading this may be confused. It’s not your fault. You’ve been conditioned to think that you need to work for most, if not all of your life. But if it were your decision, would you really subject yourself to work so much? For what?

I remember in university, I thought I was going to become something like an accountant (at least for a few years). And then I had my internship, and ohhh man, I could not stand accounting. Punching in numbers on spreadsheets. For what? For children’s education. Okay, you might think that sounds purposeful, right? But then, you really dive in deep into what that means. I get paid to do accounting work so that children can trade their time to study. Study for what? For eventually, finding a job when they are older. So for one, it’s a vicious cycle; I’m feeding into the system of jobs creating jobs. So then, what is the purpose of a job? You may think, it’s to pay your bills, to give you a sense of satisfaction, some fulfillment, to give back to society… for what? We pay bills for electricity and gas. Okay, that arguably feeds into needs because in our society, electricity and gas helps heat our homes or cool them down, and allows us to cook and such so we can eat, have some hot water, etc… Do we really need to brush our teeth and take showers? Arguably it’s good for our hygiene, thus exposing us to less sickness and ailments and disease… it’s also pleasant for those around us. Okay, but why do we need to work to have something that is a benefit for us and for those around us? You do realize that there are philanthropists like Bill Gates and such who create projects to provide free access to clean water, electricity and such to impoverished towns, right? Of course, I’m not arguing that this is a bad thing. What I’m arguing is, why can’t everyday people everywhere have access to these things too, without necessarily needing to trade their time for money? Aren’t we all deserving of whatever is needed to survive?

We’ll get back to satisfaction and fulfillment, but let’s look at giving to society. How does you being employed give to society? Isn’t the whole reason people “choose” to be employed simply because they need to pay for their own mostly useless stuff? We have police officers who are supposed to protect citizens by making sure the law is upheld, preventing crimes and such. But why do people commit crimes in the first place? To get things that they want. Why do they want things? Well, why do we want things? And what things do they want? Why are they not satisfied with just having what they need? Because society has successfully brainwashed most of us into think that we want things that just create unnecessary jobs for themselves and others. And then, there are things that we’ve been brainwashed not only to want, but to think we need. But those things are really just for show.

A slight tangent, but it’s embarrassing to think about how many people look at hair removal as a necessity of living in this society. Like seriously, what does hair removal have to do with survival? It’s become a necessity, because society has warped our views on how people should look, and has deemed it unacceptable that women, for example, bare their legs or armpits without removing the visible hair.

When you think about it though, this extends to the every aspect of life that is deemed acceptable by societal standards. Work. Why do a lot of people work eight hours a day? Because someone (Ford) decided that an eight-hour workday, five days a week was going to be the standard. They actually carved out leisure time (an equal eight hours), simply so people could take their “hard-earned” money and slap it back into the system, by buying things again that simply nobody actually needs. So we work to earn money to buy things we don’t need as well as things that we arguably do need, and we end up working for a looong time because we don’t know how to stop buying stuff we don’t need. And we take up jobs that we don’t enjoy to continue living this way. And somehow, we’ve been brainwashed to think that this is how life is supposed to be.

What if it didn’t have to be? What if there was another way? Well… there is. There are people who have gone against this system, this belief. Some have retired early. Some work much less hours per day. Some have quit working, and have managed to work around it. Some are semi-retired (like me!). Some work, but it doesn’t even feel like work; it feels like play/leisure. And the thing is, most of these people are no different than you and me. They’re not smarter. They don’t have a higher IQ. They’re not necessarily more talented or hardworking. They’re just normal people, living through all walks of life.

I realize I may be typing into the void, as in many people will just dismiss this once they even start to read the first few sentences. But my hope is that there are the few in the minority who may question the whole system, and decide to carve out a new path. It’s a path where you don’t have to feed into the bizarre demands of society, and where you can think freely, creatively, satisfy your needs, and consciously manifest your true wants and desires. You can experience life with meaning, fulfillment… It’s not just feeding into the bottomline of a corporation that has lost its purpose, simply spitting out products and services that provide little to no value to others. It’s a trap. (Though honestly, I paradoxically also believe that the concept of “providing value” is sometimes overrated.)

If you can’t imagine life without work, it’s not your fault. That’s what you’ve been taught to believe for so long. Sometimes, all it takes is remembering how life was like when we were children, when we had much less responsibilities and could enjoy play/leisure. Though, not everyone was lucky enough to have such a childhood. But even then, you can think of children who did have such luck. Or even think of celebrity teenagers who ended up having whole careers that they could enjoy. And sure, they may have tons of resources to do so. But honestly, on a smaller scale, I truly believe you could create any kind of life you desire. You don’t need to chase big numbers. All you have to ask is, what kind of life would you want to experience? Is there a way you can do that now, that doesn’t necessarily involve traditional work? How would you want to spend your time?

It’s surprising because sometimes even after laying out this argument that you don’t need to work for money to live, people still say things like, “I want to own tons of real estate.” Not because they want to live in different locations, but just to earn lots of income. Or they want to win the lottery. Or they want just want money. Lots of money. And if you ask them to dare to dream, to come up with actual experiences, they have nothing. It’s so sad. It’s like giving a child 128 different colored crayons and asking them to draw a picture, and all they can do is imagine drawing pictures. They don’t grab the crayons and draw. They simply stare and say, “I always wanted 128 different colored crayons.” And they save them, until they die. YEAH. I KNOW. That’s messed up. But that’s how people live! They work until they retire, and even when they retire they worry about money, and then they DIE. Do you want that to be you too?

*sighs* I realize this post kind of went morbid, and… the whole tone of this post is kind of depressing. Hopefully after this, you’ll tune more into your actual desires, what you want to experience… Because truly, there is more to life than just work.

To conclude this post, I’m gonna share five of the regrets of the dying, so that hopefully you can avoid these life regrets too:

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” (Basically, live to experience the things you want, and don’t fall victim to society’s brainwashing.)
  2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” (The whole point of my post!)
  3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” (You’ll be able to do this more once you stop trying to work so hard for things you don’t even need.)
  4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” (You’ll have lots more time to spend with friends once you stop trading so much time for money.)
  5. “I wish I had let myself be happier.” (And I doubt that most “work” fits into this equation.)

(Source for Five Regrets taken from here, by Bronnie Ware.)