Simple Living: When the Career Funk Has You Down

Simple Living seasonal affective disorder

It’s a Monday morning, sometime before spring, but close enough to it that long, sunny summer days feel overdue. Instead of being a decent-looking day outside, you drove to work through a slog of overcast Monday morning commuter hell. 

I mean, who cares anyway, because it’s not like you’re going to get to spend any time outside today, right? Lunch, if you eat anything at all, will be something you scarf down at your desk while a dull, low-pressure-system-related, eyestrain-enhanced headache starts to build. Thankfully there’s a bottle of ibuprofen in your desk drawer. Deadlines loom, and you decided this past weekend to actually try to save a little piece of your soul by getting out and doing fun stuff, so you didn’t actually do any of the work you brought home with you.

You cast a longing gaze at your workout bag, crammed into a corner of your cubicle. A coworker lucky enough to take a break for lunch reports that it’s still drizzly and miserable outside. You weren’t planning on getting a workout in today, were you? Actually, you were. You wanted to try out your new black ankle pants in spin class later, but an email from your boss just let you know that she wants to throw an all-hands meeting at 5:30 today. As in: 5:30 p.m., by which time you had hoped to be wrapping up your workout and getting ready to shower and slip into the end of happy hour.

Do you have to work all the way until bedtime tonight? It’s looking likely. Will you even get a chance to binge-watch two episodes of something on your tablet before you fall asleep, wake up, and start the whole thing all over again Tuesday?

Let’s See if Tuesday Gets Better

Here’s a short cut: it doesn’t. You stayed late at work Monday night, and by the time you got home every ounce of your day had been bled dry by your career. The weather isn’t as terrible on Tuesday, but the forecast for you having anything resembling personal time is not looking favorable. It might as well rain all day today, too.

Does This Sound All Too Familiar?

If so, you may be the right audience for a book titled The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living From Rural Japan, by Andy Couturier. 

Andy, an American, has spent a great deal of his life in Japan, and for the purpose of this book he interviewed ten Japanese citizens whose lives he felt could provide lessons to overworked Americans. Chapters have titles like, “Making Time to Stop and Think,” and “Breaking the Trance of ‘The Next Better Thing.’”

This book is part of a growing canon of books published in America on the subject of minimalism and simple living. In fact, a much shorter volume by an author named Shunmyo Masuno is called The Art of Simple Living. Masuno is a Zen Buddhist priest, and his guide to simple living borrows from the daily practices of zen monks. The first part of the book is called “30 Ways to Energize Your ‘Present Self.’”

Masuno recommends sitting zazen – at home or at your local zen temple – because “humans are not capable of deep reflection while we are moving.”

If you’re stuck in a rut with your career and find no love in what you do, books like these will help you answer important questions. Why do you do what you do for a career? Is it simply to be able to afford a lifestyle of endless consumerism? Answer the key questions that come up, and you may begin to have a direction towards finding a solution. While authors such as Couturier and Masuno are not offering short cuts or “tips and tricks,” they do offer a way to change your perspective.