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“Earn your living through your particular gifts, serving the community by doing the things you love, even though it means starting small. Money is the fringe benefit of a job you like.” — Author unknown

Christopher Nyerges
[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Squatter in Los Angeles,” and other books. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com]

It is not surprising to hear reports that 80% of all “workers” dislike their jobs, and that “jobs” are identified as the single greatest cause, or contributory factor to sickness or disease in nearly 80% of the people studied. I don’t know how many workers in my town hate their jobs, but I suspect it is similar to the this study.

In a 1973 survey in Massachusetts, a special Department of Health, Education, and Welfare task force reported that the best predictor for heart attack was none of the classic risk factors, but rather, the level of one’s job dissatisfaction (Work in America: Report of a Special Task Force to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1973). It is possible that this finding might be related to the observation that heart attacks (in the United States and other Western industrialized nations) cluster on Monday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m., which is the beginning of the work week. [Kolata, 1986; Muller et al., 1987; Rabkin et al., 1980; Thompson et al., 1992].

We’re not sure how scientific such studies can ever really be, but we’re convinced from personal experience, and observation, and interviews, that the so-called workplace, and the human dynamics of the workplace, are a major culprit when it comes to poor health and sickness.

There are some of the obvious issues that have been reported excessively. Sitting behind a computer terminal all day, staring at that screen, your hands in one position. The loud noises associated with certain blue-collar jobs. The fumes and toxins associated with some manufacturing jobs and farming jobs. The repetitive and non-thinking nature of so many service-oriented jobs. But beyond these basic points, there is a more fundamental issue to look at. In general, these observations apply to someone who is working for someone else, not the person who owns or runs the business. Why is that? Because it is harder to enjoy a job which is essentially fulfilling someone else’s goals.

Do you enjoy your work? No one seriously questions that we ought to perform duty in life, and that these duties are required to earn the medium of exchange for those things we cannot or choose not to make ourselves. But we seem to have taken this to a radical extreme.

We recall a cartoon from an anti-automobile magazine. Two men are driving in a car on a gridlock freeway. The cars are not moving. The driver says, “I hate driving, but I need my car to get to work.” The passenger says nothing. In the next panel, the two men are sitting behind computer terminals in a big office, and the first man says, “I hate work, but I need my job to pay for my car.”

The cartoon was funny, but insightful into the way we have chosen to think about our world, and the choices that we have come to believe are necessary.

That is, if 80% of traditional workplace workers hate their jobs, then that is having a profound effect, hour by hour on their health. Assuming a 40 hour work week, this means (conservatively) that one spends 30 minutes getting ready for work, 30 minutes driving to work, 30 minutes driving home, 30 minutes undressing, and “unwinding.” That equals at least 10 hours a day, for most people, five days a week, with two days “off” to have to do whatever else it is that is important in your life.

And if you hate whatever it is that you have devoted 50 hours a week to, you will very likely spend some of your free-time doing things to relax and get-away from what you felt you had to do to “pay the bills.” In other words, your “job” under such circumstances takes even more from your life than just those 40 to 50 hours. In essence, a job that we perform becomes our very life. We identify with that job, whether or not we like it. It is foolhardy in the extreme to not consider “what we do for a living” as being a major contributory factor to our health and well-being.

So, now what?

Work is necessary. Work is good. But how do we get to a place where each person is spending the cream of their life promoting their own health and well-being, feeling good about what they are doing, making their own choices?

There are many trends in this direction already. Home-schooling is one example where parents want to take-back control of their child’s education from an educational system that seems to have failed in most cases. And though there are many late night TV schemes you can buy to work at home and be independent, we suggest you switch off the TV and start with yourself.

What do you like? What do you like to do? What are you good at? Where would you like to spend a good portion of your day? What skills do you have which can be improved upon, or further developed, so you can turn that interest or skill into a profession? That is how you get started.

Let’s go one step further. What is your purpose in life? We are not referring here to everyone’s ultimate purpose in life. We are referring to your individual purpose for embodying on the earth. What is your dharmaic destiny? Have you ever asked yourself: “What did I come here to do?”

If you limit your concern only to “ways I can make money,” you might succeed at breaking out of the nine-to-five rat race, but you will not yet have risen to the level of fulfilling your own dharmaic destiny. As long as one is spending the majority of one’s life, time, and Light, at a job that they do not like, it is inevitable that your body rebels, and fights back, and explodes with occasional bouts of sickness, and flus, and colds, and headaches, and disease, until death.

Our health in the fullest sense is a factor of what we do, what we think, how we use our emotions and feelings. Yes, “we are what we eat” is true on both a physical and psychic level, though that does not go far enough. Everything we do arises from our thinking. This includes whatever work we choose, whatever life we pursue. Thus, it has also been said that “We are what we think we are,” which is not quite the precision we prefer. We think it is more accurate to say: We are what we think.

Finding your optimum daily “work” activity is something that only you can do for you. You have to work at it. You may not hit-upon the all-around ideal best occupation at first, but if you have an attitude of willingness to learn, and a feeling of gratitude that you can actually pursue your own occupation (in many countries of the world today, this is neither legal or practical to do, because of the prevailing political, economic, or social conditions).

It can only help to continually take classes at a local college, or even TV classes, and learn more to expand your skills. It can only help to take small business classes (via H&R Block or the Small Business Administrations, or local colleges). We are not in any way suggesting that there is some “magic” in finding the ideal occupation for you. We are simply saying that the very act of seeking your ideal occupation, and working towards it with an uplifting, positive attitude, can have a remarkable influence upon your overall mental and physical health.

One of the ways to begin pursuing “self-employment” is to take a large sheet of paper or poster, and vertically list all your skills and talents and interests and work-experience. Then list in the columns to the right all the “pros” of each pursuit, and all the “cons” to each pursuit. At this stage you might eliminate some pursuits because the cons outweigh the pros. In the next column, write how you might actually earn an income from each skill, talent, or interest. Let it be a brainstorm — you won’t know until you actually get into the field and apply this — but list whatever possible ways you can determine to earn an income from each item on your list. Next, check off those skills, or talents, or interests which are at a level of competency where you could feasibly go out and begin earning an income.

Where possible, such a pursuit can be done with other family members or close friends and associates. Then you must make a decision, and where you know that you do not know something, find out! Call people already engaged in the activities you’d like to pursue. Ask them questions. In most cases, they will be willing to help and answer questions.

We again point out that our intent here is not to provide “business advice” or “career planning.” But this is an important area to personally deal with when you’ve decided to take control of your life, and ipso facto, your health.

The fact that money permeates our modern life is neither “good” nor “bad,” — but it is something to be reckoned with. It has been said that arguments over money is the single greatest cause of marriages breaking up, and worry over money is one of the biggest ulcer and cancer causes in anyone who deals with money as a profession (stock broker, investor, commodity broker, etc.).

“No man can hope to control his destiny. The best he can hope for is to control himself — ONE SINGLE ACT AT A TIME. EACH SINGLE ONE of those acts are like bricks in a wall. A wall made of such bricks is a man’s character.” — Anon.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to be said about this – we’ll come back to this in another installment.