91. Define your upper bounds...or someone else will

mental fitness Dec 14, 2020

By: Michael Beiter

How much work is enough? 

It is true people work for more than money, but money is the primary reason. Knowing how much you need to make to fuel your lifestyle is critical so that you can answer the question above. 

In the United States a safety net exists in the form of welfare. Beyond that there is a dollar amount associated with living well. Abraham Maslow is famous for creating his chart of what all humans need to be well off. It is called the hierarchy of needs. The needs which cost something are water, food, shelter, and clothing. Employment provides the money we need to pay for these things. And the cost associated with each goes down steadily with each passing decade. This results in a cost of living that is well below $100,000 per year. 

With this in mind it is easy to understand what researchers have found when they study the relationship between annual revenue and happiness. 

"All graphs of national income against life satisfaction yield rapidly diminishing returns with more income once one is well above the safety net. This is true of national GDP and individual income, with roughly $100,000 per year in the United States being the inflection point at which increasing income brings markedly diminishing increases in happiness" Martin Seligman, renowned psychologist writes in his latest book, The Hope Circuit.

Study after study shows evidence that once you have your basic needs met more money does little for happiness. 

Knowing this allows you to stop saying yes to more work because it will make more money. Instead you can firmly say no and be comfortable that you are not missing out on much. With the extra time you get back you can take care of yourself, your loved ones, relax, and do your thing. It can't be understated how rare this ability is in the span of human history. Our ancestors had minutes to the hours of life expectancy and leisure time that we do. It would be foolish to squander those gifts of progress away on more work . 

The following is an excerpt from the book How to do Nothing. 

Beyond self care and the ability to listen, the practice of doing nothing has something broader to offer us: an antidote to the rhetoric of growth. In the context of health and ecology, things that grow unchecked are often considered parasitic or cancerous. Yet we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative. Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new. Whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way. 

Our society teaches us unlimited growth of money, status, prestige, wealth, and the like are desirable goals. This has lead to more than a few of my clients commenting that they don't know what to do when they finish their work so they commit to more. 

Or worse, they don't know when enough is enough and so allow themselves to get buried under task after task. 

Don't let this happen to you. Understand that past a certain point work and money have very little to offer you. Define your upper bounds of how much you need to make and figure out how much work that will take. If you don't, someone else will for you. And they rarely have your best interest in mind. They are too busy thinking about themselves. 

I turn 31 this month. At a birthday brunch I was asked "What are you most proud of this last year?"

My answer: I set boundaries at work. No more two a day shifts, waking before dawn, and always available mentality. For my purposes four hours of work per day is enough to pay for my life and secure a future. I won't say yes to any more than that. 

And since erecting these boundaries? I'm better when I do work and that has resulted in more revenue and referrals than ever before. In a year when small fitness businesses are getting their ass kicked no less. 

Interestingly, I received this message right before that brunch. 

My advice to him? "Set your bounds."


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