Colin (No Impact Man, for the uninitiated), has a post this morning about questioning the things that make us happy and reconsidering what amount of work is “the right amount” for a balanced and happy life: a life that makes people happier, and a life that makes the planet happier.   He’s been harping on this subject for several weeks (months? a year?) by now, and I have to admit that I’m not only a little bored with the message-on-continuous-loop, but rather irritated by it.  This morning, I figured out why.

I don’t know anyone who works more than they really want to.

I know people who are looking for more fulfilling career choices. I know people who are looking for a more challenging new position. I know people who put in very long hours and are fulfilled by them, and I know people who put in fewer hours and also find them fulfilling. I know people who work in offices, hospitals, schools, the outdoors, their living rooms, and virtual networks that don’t exist in three-dimensions. But I don’t know anyone who is actively looking to not work, to not support themselves or their family, to not seek out a path that interests and intrigues them and put their energy toward that. I don’t know anyone who wants to do less.

Am I the anomaly?

Is it because I work for a nonprofit that I believe in with crazy devotion? I’m mission-committed; I’ll gripe and moan a bit but in the grand scheme of things I don’t mind a few 80-hour weeks accompanying my super-flexible schedule that let’s me work from anywhere, and the five weeks of non-bankable time off that I receive each calendar year.  I find the combination incredibly invigorating, as do the colleagues who share that pattern with me. (Those of you reading along at home, speak up if I’m reading you wrong!)

My family is full of hardworking people.  Both of my parents have always had full-time jobs, and now that Dad has retired and Mom is nearing retirement, they’ve each started independent business ventures. My sister and brother-in-law are young and establishing their family and trying to get settled into career patterns that work with raising three babies — that’s a big struggle, but what they’re looking for is meaningful work that they enjoy, not less work altogether.  Nana is 75 and is only just now retiring from her work with the Red Cross! She’s ready to rest and relax (and put more time into volunteering) and stop traveling. My friends are in similar situations to any of these — no matter the industry or position, all are seeking meaningful, life-affirming work that makes a difference to the way that we feel — work that makes us happy.

Is this an age thing? A geography thing? A class/demographic thing? Am I missing the point?