Depending on your socioeconomic background and relevant life experiences, money and happiness may well be interwoven commodities; one dependent on the other’s presence. If, like me, your parents instilled such a deeply entrenched value of financial security in you, it becomes difficult to desire a peaceful mind over a brimming bank account. We all strive for the ‘ideal’: the gluttonous income and the starved waistline, the big house and the healthy, over-achieving and socially pleasing family. Success means happiness, right? Studies now show that maintaining these aforementioned ideals (called micro-impression-management activities) can only provide satisfaction up to a certain point. After this ‘break-even’, the limits one will strive to for the ideal life result in stress so severe it negates any of the positive aspects of succeeding.
I discovered this news in the doctor’s office the other day, having optically murdered the dude next to me in order to nab Time Magazine from the waiting room reading material. I learned that in 2005 and again in 2007, Scott Schieman, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, surveyed 1800 Americans of all income levels. What he found was confirmation of a sneaking yet society-wide suspicion.
“People with higher levels of education and in higher-status occupations and mid-to-higher income brackets are experiencing higher levels of stressors,” Schieman says. Although a predictable deduction, Schieman explains that it’s much more intense than one would think: “This is the stuff that literally keeps people up at night,” (Source: Time Magazine).
So where should we stop with the quest for success? At what point do the effects of life stress completely cancel out the positive aspects of high achievement?
In the modern day, being available to work 24/7 is now a survival strategy. It’s not an option for Generation Y to have that authentic Generation X ‘down time’. With the mainstream integration of smartphones and wi-fi, your work can now follow you anywhere. My partner, for example, is the Managing Director of a creative agency, and always replies instantaneously to work-related emails and phone calls, no matter his locale. He does this because it’s what’s required to be more efficient and more productive than his competition. As his Gen Y girlfriend, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
‘Business hours’ aren’t a thing anymore, which results in the dull ache of work stress becoming a constant in the lives of the modern day working person. Generation Y may be better equipped to deal with this however, as we don’t remember a time when things were different. Generation X and, Lord help their souls, the Baby Boomers, could find this 24/7 work mentality much more of a struggle, as the internet age has indeed come into play during their lifetime.
The solution? Take some time to chill the fuck out occasionally. Having recently had two weeks off life because I work every day and please society/my family/my friends by attending some sort of event every night, the doctor diagnosed me with severe fatigue and a digestive illness. I just thought I was iron deficient. My doctor is right though: I can never compartmentalise and focus on one issue. I must always multi-task; I regularly deal with work, university or internship issues whilst watching the news. I can’t be on the phone to my mother and leave unanswered emails. Like many, my work life can sometimes envelop my personal one, and when this goes on for too long it can cause depressing, detrimental side-effects.
We must all work hard, as competition for career has never been so fierce. However, we must also remember that once the superficial and temporary aspects of our life are stripped away, we are left with only our minds, our mentality and our companions. Are you truly happy with yours?
Written by Grace Bullen, who is the ex-Creative Director of Your Friend’s House. She’s a socially and culturally aware human who has done thang’s for brands like Everland Clothing and The Arcade Creative. Read her past articles here.