Future of Work? Future of Life.
What is the future of work? Many books and articles speak to the idea of seeking work-life balance. Much of this literature assumes a dichotomy between work and life, as if they are separate domains for which one must find a mystical balance that will lead to lessened anxiety and lowered stress. Maybe it’s time to abandon this particular snipe hunt in favor of more effective paradigms.
Are work and life separate domains in need of balance, or is work just another part of life? Can work be integrated into life the same way we integrate family, friends, community and all other aspects of our lives?
Philosopher Peter Koestenbaum, still active in his tenth decade, has spent a lifetime studying these questions, and more. His prerequisite for integrating all aspects of one’s life, including work, is to locate one’s true sense of meaning and pursue it with all available energy. Once a person locates true meaning and purpose, the only available ethical choice becomes starkly clear. That individual must either create meaning and purpose in the work they currently have or find work that is infused with the meaning that he or she wishes to pursue—even at the risk of poverty.
The ability to locate meaning in one’s life is one of the existential challenges of our time. In a world where two-thirds of workers are disengaged, where workplaces are rife with burnout, harassment, bullying, unnecessary bureaucracy, wasted time, politics, and occasional violence, it’s imperative that individuals find their own sense of personal meaning and integrate it into every aspect of life, including work. According to Koestenbaum, this ability enables one to transcend time by living from the inside out rather than simply reacting to outside forces.
Living out one’s true meaning and purpose is the key to unlocking work-life integration. The task will require courage merged with deep personal insight. It may be the most important work that anyone ever does.