Live to work or Work to live

December 21, 2011

Three days ago, I had the best conversation with my aunt. She was explaining to my siblings and I the importance of finding a field of employment where you have a hard time blurring the lines of work and play. That resonated with me as I work in an industry which has almost nothing to do with my education. I really enjoy what I do. I always have , but I have been looking at perhaps venturing into the field that I paid a lot for in order to become qualified. My aunt’s theory on the matter is that one has to be passionate about their job since we spend most of our waking hours doing it. If not, then one is depressed, and their quality of work suffers. Fair enough. This, however, posed an interesting question to me- is it better to live to work; finding a job where you are engrossed in your daily activities that the lines between your home and work are blurred, or work to live, where you put in your 8 hours and go home and enjoy time with your family and friends.

Live to Work.

I have had the pleasure of working with some fantastic people in my volunteer positions. The individuals are truly remarkable as their profession drives them to become better people. You know who I am talking about- the front line workers in agencies, the child and youth workers, the teachers. These individuals don’t do the work that they do for the money. Let’s face it, they don’t make all that much. For them, for most of them anyway, it is about  helping those who need help. One of my best friends’ mom works as an end-of-life nurse in the childrens’ ward. That is the most difficult job I have heard of. Yet, she does it day after day because to her it’s important that someone is there to take care of these children. One of my other friends work in Toronto as a fundraiser for a youth charity. He spends his days contacting different funders to raise funds so the youth in his neighbourhood have a place to go after school. There are many other examples that are out there of people who lives revolve around the meaning of the work that they do.

Not everyone who lives to work works under those conditions, I know many people who work in sales/ marketing/ advertising/ programming who truly enjoy doing so and look forward to the next day. I find that people work in creative fields mostly don’t have an issue taking there work home with them. To them it is a part of who they are, a part of their identity. Creative people will work for days at a time on a project that pays nothing, as long as they are passionate about it.


Work to live.

My parents have been in the work force for more than 25 years. They both enjoy their jobs, but they don’t like bringing it home with them. My mom especially values her personal life and will go to extreme measure to ensure that they are not connected. To her, her career has always been a means to an end. This is not to say that she doesn’t enjoy what she does- she does. And she is brilliant at it. She does however, enjoy spending time with her family a lot more. My father is the same way. He has slowly transitioned from being involved directly in how he generated an income to slowly creating multiple passive streams- mostly focusing on real estate . This is allowing him to travel, and spend time on projects that he is truly passionate about.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is now a banker, and he stated that he works hard at his job in order to be able to afford the things that he wants outside of work. That makes sense to me. If you are in a career path where you work to earn a living and do with that living what you are passionate about, then it all balances out. However, that is not always the case- some people allows for their salary to inflate their lifestyle, buying houses and cars that they can’t afford, thus make it extremely unpleasant and difficult to walk away from their jobs.

Personally, my current job allows me to exercise my creative demons and gives me the flexibility to do what I would like outside of work. The downside of what I do involves a lot of traveling, and commuting. It also involves office politics, which I absolutely can not stand. For these reasons, I hate mixing my professional and personal life. I am  a lot younger than most of the people in my office, especially for my role and I rather not have co-workers judge my work based my personal life. With the limited free time that I get I volunteer with organizations that I truly care about, spend time with family and friends, play and watch a lot sports, and have the means to generally buy what I want. I do wonder if there is a job that I would enjoy more, a job that I wouldn’t mind overlapping in my day to day life.

I do find that GEN Y have different priorities, we prioritize the perks more than the salaries,whether these are electronics, travel perks or extended vacations.We tend to look for other opportunities if we find the one that we are in too restrictive. The biggest reasons that I took my current postion because it allowed me to work from home periodically, and create a somewhat flexible schedule. Those are priorities for me. Unfortunately, that stopped being the case.


Other the hand, you will also find GEN Y working 2 or 3 jobs to alleviate the huge amount of student debt incurred studying in a field that we think we are passionate about.  A lot of us end up doing jobs that don’t require the education that we have. We are simply over-educated and under utilized, and this leads to a mismatch in qualifications causing job satisfaction to suffer.

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics – in the US alone, 320,000 waiters and waitress , 80,000 bartenders, and 18,000 parking lot attendants have a bachelors degree. That is not counting the ones who have doctorates.


The perfect balance.

A few months ago I was helping our HR interview a few candidates and one of the most qualified candidate’s answers struck close to home. I do want to say that she was the ideal candidate for a variety of different postions and had she been willing to commute she would have commanded a salary far greater than what we were offering. Her reason for wanting the position with my employer was simple- work life balance. She valued that more than anything else. She was willing to take a 20% pay cut in order to have a better balance in life. That to me says it all.


Do you work to live, or live to work?


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  • Emily Hunter December 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

    When I first started my working career, I was working merely to put food on the table and to keep gas in the car. It wasn’t sustaining in the least, because I was turning and burning and turning again. After a year or so of doing this, I got a job which was more like a career… and then my expenses rushed to catch up with it and I was living paycheck to paycheck again. Fast forward to now … I’m a freelance writer who does what she wants to do, doesn’t make much money and dearly loves life. That work-life balance is priceless… and should be held onto when it’s achieved.

  • Newlyweds on a Budget December 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I definitely work to live. To me–nothing is more important than spending time with my family and friends. I understand people who love their jobs, but I can’t ever fathom loving something more than spending time with my family. I enjoy my job. I really do. But I’m not in love with it.

  • krantcents December 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I definitely live to work! I already accomplished financial freedom and enjoy working. I like getting up in the morning and going to work. I actually look forward to returning to work after a vacation. I enjoy what I do.

  • John@MoneyPrinciple December 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I was most intertested in the proportion of amusement part attendents with degrees – I guess many people take these jobs hoping they are temporary.

    Ideally both conditions should be met. People are best doing what they are passionate about and ideally that will pay them enough to live comfortably. But often this is not the case.

    But for Gen Y, the myth of the 40 year work plan is clear. The earlier Gen X and Bby Boomers fell into the trap.:-(

  • Neo December 23, 2011 at 3:43 am

    My wife told me about a great quote the other day: “No one ever said, “I wish I spent more time at the office, on their death bed…”

    • Marissa December 23, 2011 at 4:05 am

      Exactly. We take life for granted sometimes. Thats an awesome quote.

  • My Own Advisor December 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Definitely work to live. No question!

    Nice post – now following 🙂

    Holidays cheers!

  • stan osoriasoria December 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    For what it worth it work to live or try been unemployed.

  • Taming Our Finances January 11, 2012 at 5:50 am

    I really enjoyed this topic. So much that I decided to answer your question with a post of my own. See what you think!

    • Marissa January 11, 2012 at 6:32 am

      I checked it out. Great post!

  • rob September 11, 2012 at 7:39 am

    i live to live, and work to work. wtf are you thinking?

  • Stephen Ngu April 5, 2013 at 6:01 am

    I badly want work to live however circumstance is not promising.