What is more important: a balanced, happy life or achieving greatness?

What is more important: a balanced, happy life or achieving greatness? Find out on Paywizard.org.

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Answer Paywizard:

From a philosophical perspective, you are asking a question that prompts this wizard to think about something I love:  the very nature and purpose of work, the determination and pursuit of one’s life goals, whether blue really is the best color for me…

From the perspective of an economist, I approach any question by first considering the validity of its preceding assumptions.  Therefore, I suppose I need to begin by challenging whether maintaining a healthy work-life balance and achieving greatness are indeed mutually exclusive.  What I understand to be implied by your question is that a more hard-driving approach with longer hours is what is required to realize the goal of greatness, whereas working less will help assure a higher probability of happiness.  Unfortunately I am not confident that this is always the case, given that these are not necessarily linear relationships, nor do we necessarily have to give up one for the other.

While I certainly do not wish to punt on your question, my conflicted friend, I must suggest that we step back a moment and ask how you define the achievement of greatness?  From my experience, this all depends on one’s personal and professional priorities.  After all, some seek financial reward or public recognition for their work, whereas others find solace and satisfaction through accomplishing a mission in the public interest or public service but without external validation.  For some, greatness may be the very work-life balance that provides them the opportunity to have a satisfying career that affords them the financial and temporal ability to work toward extracurricular or family goals.

Many of us devote a huge portion of our time and energy to our work.  Certainly a job is more than something that merely has to get done.  It is something that we must wake up for and devote our minds and bodies to every day.  Getting up each morning and going to a place that you dislike or working hours that do not allow you to simultaneously pursue other areas of personal (rather than professional) development will have a big tax on your psyche.  Meanwhile, if you are continually seeking external justification in terms of others’ attention and approval, financial compensation, or otherwise, you are likely to find this exacting a similarly weighty toll.

For many people, work is not just a task to get done, but rather one of the most significant things that defines who they are.  Often, and usually for financial reasons, people find themselves in jobs that are not in-sync with their personalities, priorities, or passions – or they may feel “stuck” doing something that they just do not enjoy anymore while their skills are not progressing.  Rather than considering the dichotomy you pose, perhaps you can benefit from spending some time exploring the very priorities that will enable you to make the informed choices about how you use your time.  There are no absolutes or categorically correct answers that I may provide you, but I can support you in your exploration to discover and follow your own clear priorities and pursuits.

Good luck!