Day in and day out, we put a price on our well-being. We don’t often realize that we are doing this, but doing it we are. The price I’m talking about is measured by wages, and the well-being I’m referencing is health-based (although well-being taps into social, economical, psychological, and spiritual realms–among numerous others–as well). From this perspective we all place a price on our well-being, but how much do we really think it’s worth?
For some, the price is just right: These people consciously and continuously consider the impact of work on their health. They choose, alter, or change occupations with this in mind. They’re also much more likely to enjoy the work they’re doing. For many others, the price is too low (regardless of wage, salary, or benefits): These people unconsciously and sporadically consider the impact of work on their health. They choose, alter, or change occupations with other priorities in mind. They’re also much less likely to enjoy the work they are doing.
You’re immediate response may be one of agreement, even if my assessment is oversimplified, overgeneralized, and overarching (to name a few of its shortcomings). It may also be one of disagreement for the above-mentioned or any number of reasons. In some way–whether you agree or disagree–you’re right. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of truth in these ideas. No matter how mindful we are of our health and the impact work has on it (before, during, or after we enter our occupations), inevitably many (if not most) of us begin to become motivated by work as a means to a healthful end and not a healthful end in itself.
Using but one possible example, “means to an end” people consider work to be the financial fuel that makes health possible. On one hand, they’re right: The money provided by work pays for many health-related necessities. On the other hand, they’re (often) wrong: The work itself may be the major cause that leads to the effect of compromised health, which creates (if not exacerbates) the need for health-related necessities. At the same time, some “end in itself” people consider the work to be an integral component of their healthfulness. There (often) isn’t a downside to this approach when it continuously informs choices that promote health-related well-being inside (and outside!) of the workplace.
Now, I do realize that these examples are limited at best. Surely there are myriad people who fit neither or some combination of both of these specific examples. The point I’m making largely relies on your not considering the many flaws of my argument. It’s more important for you to consider the truth that lies within the argument itself, which is this: Many (if not most) of us prioritize the financial rewards of work above our health-related well-being. A simple, yet similar truth is that we all have the ability to examine our work-related motivations to consider how these include or exclude our health-related well-being.
With the above in mind, how much is your well-being worth? Are you proactively approaching work with your health in mind? Are you actively avoiding any and all ill-effects of work as acceptable occupational hazards? Or are your somewhere between these two positions? Wherever your thoughts reside, I encourage you to consciously and continuously consider the health-related impacts of your work. When you do so you are more likely and able to strike a health-positive balance between work and well-being. Sometimes mindfulness will point out simple changes you can make to improve your health. Other times it will lead to a reevaluation and/or (gulp!) a change of occupation.
Wherever greater mindfulness leads you, it’s very likely to be better place for you–both personally and professionally. Mindfully creating and maintaining a mutually supportive balance between work and well-being will surely be a win-win for you and your health. It will also emphasize, if not increase, the value you place on your well-being.