By Bradley Stockwell
Even with surmounting evidence of the importance of a good social life, getting exercise and decreasing stress, people continue to prioritize their salaries over their health. However when you apply monetary values on good health it becomes obvious that money is far from everything. A study from the Journal of Socio-Economics used “shadow pricing” (an economics term to estimate the price paid for increments of addition production) to estimate monetary values of potential life satisfaction gained by interactions with friends and family. Here’s a breakdown of what the study found:
- Going from poor to excellent health: +$463,170/ year
- Having a better social life: +$131,232/ year
- A happy marriage: +$105,000/ year
- Seeing friends and family regularly: +$97,265/ year
That means you could potentially be missing out on $796,667 worth of life satisfaction due to your time and social life consuming job. Now ask yourself again, is that long commute, or that 60 hour workweek really worth that high salary? Despite numerous scientific studies in support of this, I personally had to learn on my own and thought it more potent to share my story than to state studies.
I graduated from college in 2009 in the midst of the “Great Recession” at a time when the job market had been decimated. Although my degree was in advertising and I had intended to enter the field, I was left to make suffice with what was available, and what’s available after an occupational apocalypse? The cockroaches of the professional job market: sales positions. It seems no matter how bad things get, there’s always a need for a good salesperson. I had student loan debt and bills to pay, so at the time I felt I had no other choice. Fast forward two years and I had found financial success in my unintended sales career; I had been promoted twice and had a healthy managerial salary. While my finances were healthy, I was not. I had gained 20 pounds, I was working on average 55 hours a week and had to work most Saturdays. Most days I’d have to skip my lunch, or work while eating it and I was drinking heavily on the weekends. This was the type of atmosphere that was bred at my job; you give your life to the company, otherwise there’s hundreds of other saps willing to replace you because there’s nothing else out there and you should consider yourself fortunate to even have a job.
In late 2011, I had a life changing moment, or what I called my quarter life crisis. I had to ask, “Is this really what life is supposed to be?” After 18+ years of schooling, you get a job and learn to do one thing very well and do it everyday until you either retire, or die. While I had gained financial independence, I had lost my life in the process. I was good at my job, but my life was stagnant. I was no longer learning; no longer challenged and the adult world seemed empty. This was when I realized money would never bring me happiness, only buy the drinks I needed to cope with its misery.
The tipping point came when I was offered a very lucrative position in medical device sales in which I’d be making the coveted six-figure salary at 24 years old. After a long life contemplation I decided not only to decline the position, but to quit my career in sales altogether. Although the job offer was admittedly very tempting and everyone thought I was crazy, I knew I’d be committing my future to a life I never intended to have. I wanted to be in advertising and marketing because it was challenging to me; it was my passion, my joy; it fulfilled me.
After quitting I moved in with my grandmother and took several part-time jobs and internships throughout 2012. Also against the advice of many, I took the savings I had accumulated and traveled to Europe—something I told myself I would always do in my twenties. The trip only galvanized my commitment to the value of my life and was my motivation while I rebuilt my career over the next two years. In that time, I was able to go from a minimum wage intern to a marketing director. While I am not quite making a six-figure salary yet, I feel immeasurably richer than I ever have. My career is now based on my talents, knowledge and ideas as opposed to learned repetitive routines. Your job takes up the majority of your waking hours and if you’re miserable, or not challenged, your life will suffer. Simply summed up by Confucius “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When I am getting paid for a passion, the work it takes to be successful seems a lot more effortless.
Along with finding a more fulfilling career path, there are a few simpler choices I’ve made that have also contributed to my success. The first was moving closer to work—close enough that I can walk, or bicycle. I never realized the difference starting your day out with a little exercise as opposed to sitting in traffic could make. Instead of struggling with other drivers on the road, I’m struggling with new ideas and planning out my day and by the time I arrive at work, my first hour of work is done. Secondly, a healthy exercise and diet regimen. Being healthy simply allows me to have the energy and mental focus I need in order to be more productive at work. Thirdly was utilizing my lunch as a time to take my mind off work. Whether it’s reading a book, or learning something new, I’ve found when I get out of the office and away from my desk I come back renewed and the second half of my day is more fruitful than if I had not. Lastly, learning and challenging yourself doesn’t have to stop just because you’re out of school. Creating new synapses in your brain helps with problem solving and creative thinking and while it’s not related to your work, you’ll inadvertently find yourself better at it.