Some time back, I read an interesting little story written by a man who spent forty years learning a rather interesting thing.
This individual was not what you could call the busy, bustling type of individual. In fact, he acknowledged the fact that he was chronically lazy. He loves comfort and leisure with a passion and that’s why it was all the more interesting that it took him about forty years to discover that he likes to work.
Now, you can learn a lot in forty years and do a lot of things. Wars can come and go, and the shape of continents can change. It didn’t take Einstein that long to develop the theory of relativity. All the more amazing, it took this particular individual forty years to discover that he likes to work.
He has learned the very valuable lesson that some people never seem to learn: a human being has to work in order to be happy.
People need work, he went on to point out, almost as badly as they need food. Without it, they can be devoured by restlessness and discontent.
While this may not come as surprising news to you, the lack of it causes millions of people all over the world to suffer needless drudgery and discontent.
How many people who think they hate to work would, if they knew the truth, recognize it as the thing they most need in order to find contentment? How many people who dislike their jobs could, with a simple change in mental outlook made possible by this knowledge, enjoy their work thoroughly?
And how many women who groan over the chores of raising a family realize later, after the children have left home, that those were among the happiest years of all? What a pity they didn’t know it at the time!
Realizing that you actually enjoy working is part of growing up.
But many people never learn it. They never achieve the peace of mind and contentment this knowledge brings. They spend their lives in a prison where work is the eternal punishment.
Others wake up to the fact that they like to work only when the time comes to retire. As their daily job comes to an end, they suddenly realize how much it has meant to them and what a vacuum will be left in their lives without it. Then, they belatedly try to develop hobbies and pursuits that will keep them active.
The knowledge comes too late to do much good.
If they had only realized this fact twenty, thirty, or even forty years earlier, think how much happier they would have been – how much more they would have gotten out of life.
The man who wrote this little piece, John Luther (it’s published by the Economics Press of Montclair, New Jersey), once took two months off with his family and went to Cape Cod. The first three weeks were perfect – swimming, resting, long walks, nothing but leisure. And then, Mr. Luther began to feel uncomfortable, nervous, and irritable. Things just weren’t fun anymore. It finally dawned upon him that what he needed was some work to do. He realized that a vacation was wonderful, we all need rest and relaxation, but it can’t take the place of work for too long or we get itchy and dissatisfied with ourselves. This is a pretty horrible thing to realize, but it’s true all the same.
As he put it, work is the main course, the meat and substance of our lives.
Recreation is the dessert; we like it best in modest portions at the end of a good meal. When we try to substitute the dessert for the meal itself, we lose our taste for it.