Live to Work: The American Dream

Americans are notorious for working too hard and too long. We strive to achieve the American Dream of having the perfect job that pays well, but along the way, we often hurt ourselves and lose sight of those things in our lives that have true value. Unfortunately, we also frequently discover that the perfect ending to the working American Dream is not all that happy after all.

A 2010 survey by CIGNA found that 63 percent of Americans say they “live to work” whereas only 36 percent say they “work to live.” Add that to the fact that 86 percent of Americans know they can do something to prevent an injury or illness that would prevent them from working but only 36 percent do anything about it, and we have a scenario that is anything but promising and positive.

No one wants to put their job on the back burner, especially with the state of our economy, but there are repercussions for working too hard. You may be hoping for a promotion or trying to take on extra projects or tasks, but the consequences can have lasting physical and mental effects. When we work too much, we become tired, and when we’re tired, our concentration and productivity suffers, which can reflect poorly on the work into which we’ve sunk so many hours. Without adequate rest, a healthy diet and regular exercise, we become more susceptible to injury and illness.

Also, when we focus too much on work, it’s easy to lose touch with our friends and family. We miss birthdays and anniversary dinners. We’re too busy to take vacations and catch our children’s soccer games. Those moments can’t be replaced or relived, regardless of how much money we make or how many promotions we receive. As we work harder and longer, there may be an expectation that we can juggle an increasing amount of work, which puts even more stress on our shoulders.

We need to reframe the American Dream from one of financial success to one that reflects on our personal happiness and wellbeing. To strike a healthier work-life balance, we need to know exactly how much time we spend on everything, and then delegate some of our tasks to others. We also need to learn how to say no.

When you leave your place of employment each day, leave your work behind. Don’t check in on your laptop or spend time on your cell phone when you’re at home eating dinner with your family.

Finally we need to take control of our health. This means we need to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, get enough sleep and make time to exercise. Can’t get to the gym? We have the solution. Join us on September 22 for our monthly health and wellness workshop on desktop yoga. We’ll provide easy exercises for people who say they don’t have time to work out. Your desk is no longer an excuse …


CIGNA. “Most Americans ‘Live to Work’.” (April 30, 2010) Retrieved August 11, 2010 from

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Work-Life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control.” (May 29, 2010) Retrieved August 11, 2010 from

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