I heard Malcom Gladwell making the distinction between “work life” and “real life”. To be clear, he didn’t elaborate on the difference between the two, but it was clear that, in that particular context, he was referring to personal life, the life outside work as the “real life”. I am not sure if he realized he was making a distinction or if he actually believed in it. It might have been just a way to get his point across in that particular context.
But it got me thinking: Why do we, GenX’ers (he’s one), put personal life on an artificial pedestal and consider personal life as something we have to do and work life as something we have to do but would rather not. We work to live. At least, here in America. We work to make money so we can go in fancy vacations, play golf, pay for our hobbies, buy the expensive cars and homes to enjoy in our “personal life”.
The problem with that mindset is that we never get to actually enjoy any of them. Because our intention wasn’t to actually use them, but to collect them. To show that we have arrived. That we have more than others. That we deserve that particular social rank.
The possessions and things we do in the personal life become even more important than our work life. They are the stick by which we measure success. Especially, when our success doesn’t derive from fulfilling a passion or building our own multi-billion company.
So, the personal life becomes the real life. Except, unconsciously, we apply the same criteria to the personal life as we do with the professional one, which leads to completely missing the real real-life. The one that derives its happiness from little things – like playing with a child or a pet, literally smelling the flowers, walking on a beach, watching a sunset. The things that don’t require planning or expensive equipment. This life doesn’t have social or economic scales. It does not compete with other real real-lives. It just is. Why not enjoy it and make the best of it?