A few weeks ago, while riding the London tube, I saw a man with a tote bag. On it, it had a quote from Downton Abbey that said “What is a ‘Weekend’?” … I loved that quote! In context, the original quote is being said by an upper class individual in the early 1900s who is so wealthy they’ve never had to work a day in their life. Their life is all the same – no work weeks – and so, they’re genuinely asking ‘what is this concept of a weekend?’ … that they could be so out of touch with the common man makes me chuckle! But, I love the quote even more because this is still a contemporarily relevant question that I frequently ask myself- a question at the heart of my coaching and why I do what I do.
I love discussing with people questions like:
- ‘What is your relationship with work?
- Do you like what you do during the week (and consequently spend most of your life doing)?
- Or is the work week something you endure and you, to take a common phrase, “live for the weekends”?
- How big is the difference between the you during the week vs you on the weekend?
- What is it you do on the weekends?
- And if the only real living of your true life happens on the weekends, are you happy with how you spend that time?
- If it makes up your ‘real’ life is it your ideal reflection of who you want to be?
You see, I used to be someone who saw the weeks for working and the weekends for all the other in-betweens of life that’s not work. Not ideal, but I assumed it was just fine and normal, except most of the time I really disliked my work and so the weeks became more about endurance and getting through the days.
Days were long because my to-do list was never-ending. By the time the weekend rolled around I was either :
a) behind on my to-do’s and so would use the weekend to ‘catch-up’ or
b) too depleted from the week to build a life outside of work.
It was mostly more work, sleep, Netflix, and attempting to get myself out to social events in a stressed and exhausted state. So, life was sort of all a work related blur- does this sound familiar to you?
My experience isn’t uncommon. We have sad emojis for the Monday blues when we start the work week, say “happy hump day!” to each other as encouragement to keep going through the week, and by the time Friday rolls around we’re elated (or at least happy for a couple days with a little less pressure). And for some, “happy hour” can be not just a social event meant to encourage balance, but a coping mechanism to deal with the stress and burden of the week.
It’s no wonder we can’t wait for the weekend, the Weekend Effect study from the University of Rochester found that “men and women alike consistently feel better mentally and physically on the weekend.” They feel better regardless of how much money they make, how many hours they work, how educated they happen to be… regardless of age, industry, marital status, wage, etc.
The Weekend Effect study mentioned above found that we feel better on the weekend because, in addition to getting to spend time with loved ones, on the weekend we feel more autonomy and freedom to choose our activities. This is in contrast to the work week where we may feel like we’re being controlled by time pressures, work demands, or other external constraints. So, one of the conclusions of the study is that to the extent that our daily life, INCLUDING WORK, can give us a sense of autonomy our well-being will be improved. In other words, a big factor in our happiness and well-being is in feeling like we have a say in our lives.
So, how can we gain a greater sense of autonomy and personal choice over our work?
The thing is that we may often feel like we don’t have control over our work, but we actually have a lot of choices we can make to improve our situation and make work, well…work for us. To the extent we can take a look at where we can make changes we can start to feel more in charge of our life and possibly enjoy our weeks as much as our weekends. This is where a coach may help you in identifying where those choices are or how to put them into action. Or even if you don’t want to change a thing, simply recognizing that despite having options, you are choosing not to use them can create a shift in perspective and make you feel more in control of your life. The thing we tend to forget is that except for some extreme situations, most of us have a lot of choices in how we decide to live our life. #truth
I started by taking a good look at my life and asking the questions, ‘What is work to me? What’s its purpose and why do I do what I do everyday? And yes, what is a weekend?!
There are many paths you can take to find your ideal work situation. It’s personal. What works for one isn’t necessarily what works for another. It’s all about who you are and what you like and want. It’s going to look different for each person based on how you might answer the above questions. The possibilities are endless. It may be that you find and/or finally start doing that thing you would love (or at least really like) to do for work. Spice it up! It may be that you strive to have enough balance (and boundaries) between your work and non-work lives so that there is genuine space and energy available to have the life you want outside of work. Or it may be you continue what you’re doing for work now, but focus on making some internal shifts so you can breathe more at work, reduce your stress, and find yourself starting to enjoy it. Often times it can be us that’s making things hard, not the situation.
To the extent that we exercise our choices and gain a sense of autonomy over our work situation we can feel more in charge of our life. We can get to feel more like those Downton Abbey folk where the weeks and weekends are our choosing and a Tuesday could feel just as good as a Saturday. Just imagine that for a moment. A life where everyday is enjoyable. No more just waiting for the week to be over. We get to choose how we want to live.
The bottom line is that enduring the weeks and living for the weekends (or just using them to ‘catch up’ and sleep) is not ideal. I’m pretty sure you know that already and it’s not how you’d like to spend your life. But it’s so common we forget that. We think this is just the way it is and they’re no other options. We don’t realize that we have autonomy. And so we might continue in a holding pattern for years.
And when we think about possibly doing anything to change our situation our mind is ready with a million objections as to why we can’t. Except they’re mostly not true.
Most of us have choices. Many more than we think we do.
We just have to start using them. It may take some time, creativity and yes- courage, but I promise if you put your mind to it, you can get to a life that feels good, not just the weekends. I know from my own experience and from working with other people like you, asking the questions and uncovering the life they want to live. You can too.
Thanks for reading! You can learn more at syoungwang.com
Please note: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgement. It is not health/mental health advise and it does not create a coach-client relationship. For my full disclaimer/polices please go to https://www.syoungwang.com/policies/