The problem in our culture isn’t really that we’re overworked, though that tends to be the common assumption. It’s that we’re moving constantly, “busy” constantly, but never doing much of anything at all. Not anything we truly care about, anyway.

We’re exhausted because we’re putting our energy into things that don’t give it back. Or, rather, we’re giving our energy to lethargy and procrastination and numbness, and so we’re getting more and more of it. (Whatever we put into something, we receive back tenfold).

We’re tired because we’re mindlessly rotating through meaningless, rote tasks, filling our hours with scrolling and comparing, believing that the “normal” way is the responsible way, the only way to make a life and a living.

The problem is not that we’re tired, it’s that we’re not really waking up for anything. Our minds and hearts are so severely underworked and our bodies are so intensely over-utilized that we forget the former feeds and sustains the latter.

And most importantly, it’s that ultimately, this has very little to do with what our jobs are… and everything to do with how we perceive them.

You can consider your hourly position menial, or you can take mental refuge in how it serves someone else. You can begin to believe that it’s not the investors and millionaires who are happiest and most whole by looking around and seeing how rarely they are the people most content and fulfilled.

But the people who are? They’re the ones who put their energy toward something more than themselves. It’s the carpenter who builds furniture for families and knows he creates a place on which kids can sleep. It’s the barista who knows they serve dozens and dozens of people their breakfast every morning. It’s the teacher who taught you to read. It’s the tailor who cleans your clothes. It’s the farmer who harvested dinner for thousands of people this morning.

These are the people who realize you have a choice, and they chose to see how they are part of a system that serves a greater whole. In good ways. In true ways. In noble ways. In simple ways.

A day filled with what you love is never exhausting. A day spent recognizing how what you do serves love, that’s even better. It’s liberating and exalting and joyous. The next time you think you’re “too busy,” it’s because you’re spending all your time not doing much of anything at all.

The next time you think you have to change your life, do more, create more, be different, to start to appreciate it… it’s because you still believe that purpose is what you do, rather than how you think. The people who most feel “overworked” are the ones who haven’t even really started.

Photography: Nathan Congleton

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