In the realm of Physics, Work is defined as Force multiplied by Displacement and is expressed by the formula W = Fs .
And while most of us probably never use this equation in our daily lives, the necessity to do work is hardwired into our anatomy. It is a fundamental part of being the animal we call “human”.
For many, “work” is just another four letter word. And sure, maybe their job sucks or they find their occupation miserable. But working is so deeply ingrained in us that in its absence, we arbitrarily create work for ourselves in an attempt to keep our bodies and minds functioning properly.
This phenomenon can be seen daily in CrossFit classes, Planet Fitness, and home gyms, where people (either consciously or unconsciously) recognize the correlation between physical effort and their overall well-being.
Over the last decades we have seen the rapid rise of the fitness industry, something that was virtually non-existent a couple hundred years ago and by all logic, should be totally superfluous to our existence.
Except it isn’t. Man was designed to do work.
And when his body and mind aren’t consistently being put to good use, the system starts to fall apart. Anyone who has studied a little bit of physiology understands that both our respiratory and muscular systems benefit directly from regular exertion.
Similarly, our nervous system (which includes our brain) must also be exercised. Perhaps one of the greatest causes of society’s problems today is due to people having too little “work” to do. Though cliche, the adage of “idle hands” comes to mind. This also holds true for an idle mind, whose primary function is to work out and solve problems.
In fact, it has become so well adapted to this task that if there are no immediate problems to solve, it will create them. The word we typically use to describe this is “worry”. In its extremes, it can start to create anxiety (worrying about the future) or depression (worrying about the past).*
And while all of us are generally “busy” to some extent, the minimal mental and physical activity that occupies most of our time is rarely the type our mind and body needs. The main issue is that the evolution of our society has far outpaced the evolution of our organism. In essence, we are trying to run Windows 10 or Mac Big Sur on a Commodore 64. (here’s a link for you young bucks who may not get the reference.)
Throughout most of man’s time on this planet, his primary concern was simply survival. It was not until we transitioned away from a hunter gatherer society that we began to ponder the mysteries of the universe and our purpose here on Earth.
Existential dread, it appears, is predominantly an ailment of peak civilization. Perhaps this is the product of the classic Hard Times -> Hard Men -> Good Times -> Weak Men -> Hard Times continuum.
Interestingly enough, most of the issues we read about in our society are the definition of “First World” problems. In places where people still have to fight and claw their way to subsist, we rarely see the same concerns that seem to plague our headlines.
Because our biological system was built for the sole purpose of simply keeping us alive. Now it seems that our abundance of comfort and convenience is slowly killing us. [ Link to CDC for Leading Causes of Death 2019 the bulk of which on this list are largely preventable.]
First, we must learn to distinguish between being busy and being productive. Not just in a business sense, but being aware of the effects our activities have on our mind, body and spirit. We can often go through the motions of something without actually getting the benefits we intended. As an example, how many people “show-up” to the gym but don’t actually get any real work in? I know people who go to the gym every day but look like they have never been once.
In order to be effective, we have to do work that is producing the desired results. We have to become better in-tune with the system (ourselves) to determine if what we “feel” from something is constructive or destructive. Then adjust accordingly.
Once we have determined the right quality, then we need to be aware of the quantity. Too little, and we don’t send enough signals to stimulate positive adaptations. Too much “good” work can have negative effects as well. Our bodies (and minds) can only handle a certain amount of stress before they can longer benefit.
Unfortunately, I cannot prescribe the perfect dosage and neither can anyone else. Finding the sweet spot between enough work to be healthy and productive and enough rest to continue forward, is something we all have to learn for ourselves.
This in itself becomes the real work. Continually seeking, testing, and exploring how to efficiently and effectively use this fleshy meat tube of bone, muscle, and sinew until the spirit it encases is ready to move on.
*A distinction should be made here between clinical Anxiety and Depression with a capital "A" and "D" and the experience of being anxious or depressed as general emotions or feelings that most people experience occasionally.
I agree with each point made in this article. This is precisely why I view the time I’m clocked in as busy, and the time I’m clocked out as productive. When I clock out of my 9-5 desk job I train for my next Strongman meet, make improvements to my house ,spend time with my family, and fix anything that broke while I was busy. If it wasn’t for the good money I make at work, I would readily classify that time as wasted.
I believe “Work Is Good” t-shirts are in order.
I be waiting to order one…
“And when his body and mind aren’t consistently being put to good use, the system starts to fall apart. Anyone who has studied a little bit of physiology understands that both our respiratory and muscular systems benefit directly from regular exertion.”
It’s funny. I was basically born and raised in a gym. Did my 1st, what I later learned was a bench press when I was 8 years old. I was benching 135lbs by the time I was 10 years old. Doing pull ups from the beams in the basement and sit ups by putting my feet under the couch. I was, as some would say genetically gifted. Except I am actually genetically gifted. My father was 4 time Mr. Pittsburgh. . . According to my mom.
But I’ve never actually been able to use exercise as a stress reliever. I didn’t know it was a thing people did until I was in my 20s.
It wasn’t until I got into carpentry that I was actually able to think clearly while working simultaneously. I’ve had both depression and a panic disorder, albeit, years apart from each other. The panic was far worse. No form of exercise helped. But working with my hands, I never even thought about panicking, no anxiety, no depression. . . “we must learn to distinguish between being busy and being productive.”
One can be busy reading how to deal with depression, but without actually performing what you’re reading, you will always be depressed, i.e., the work has to be done.
I started working as a way to fulfill my material needs and desires (picking strawberries, shoveling animal manure and so on), such as food, clothes, dates and things of that nature, I was about twelve. At the age of sixteen I started working at McDonald’s and learned a lot about being productive and efficient. At the age of twenty-one I joined the Marine Corps and received an eye-opener on what being efficient really meant, alone with physically challenging, seemingly endless work. At thirty years of age I received a medical discharge as I had broken my neck and had severe nerve damage. About six months later I started my own company and ran it an average of six days a week for about 18 years. I am about to turn fifty-three years old and decided to retire “early”, but I never plan on not being productive, as I love working, whether I get paid for it or not. A human cannot survive (on their own) without productive work of some sort, and I love working!
Value but hold loose the blessings that come from putting your gifting into action. Tomorrow is never promised and will give new challenges / opportunities. Squeeze today and rest well. Work IS for our Good