(NaturalNews) In 2005, the National Institute of Health reported that 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. The data collected indicated that much of this anxiety originated in dissatisfaction toward, or downright hatred of, their work. The 2000 annual Attitudes in the American Workplace VI Gallup Poll reported that 80 percent of workers feel significant, negative stress on the job, and 25 percent report having felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress.
A subsequent 2000 Integra Survey indicated that 62 percent of the American workforce routinely ended the day with work-related neck pain, and 34 percent reported difficulty in sleeping because they were too stressed out from their jobs. Over half said they often spend 12-hour days on work-related duties and an equal number frequently skip lunch because of job demands. This trend is strongest among workers under the age of 25, less than 39 percent of who are satisfied with their jobs. Workers age 45 to 54 have the second lowest level of satisfaction, with over 57 percent reporting professional dissatisfaction.
For many, the workplace is a golden cage - a place they stay because of the paycheck, not because they feel adequately engaged or stimulated. American workers are forgetting how to fly. In return for a paycheck, they are loyal to work they hate, and they live for those sadly diminishing hours when they can pour themselves into activities they would much rather be doing. All the while, they try to quell the little nagging voice inside their heads that they ought to be doing what they love - that there ought to be some congruence between their life and making a living. Moreover, they can't shake the concern, no matter how deeply they try to bury it under stuff, about not having sufficient meaning in their lives.
There, buried under piles of consumer goods, hours of unproductive psychotherapy, and disappearing front porches is American's nagging realization that they aren't happy. Measuring cultural quality by the Gross National Product instead of, for example, like Bhutan, by the Gross National Happiness has led to lives where, too often, meaning, purpose, deep life experience, and gratitude are missing. No matter how fast we run, we can't seem to outdistance knowing that happiness delivers a bigger mental value than financial value.
In the whole tradition of Western literature, the one book that, more than any other, attempts to define happiness is Aristotle's Ethics. Basically, Aristotle taught that the requirement for happiness was a complete life - and a happy life was a Good Life. Aristotle believed that happiness was the ultimate good - the highest good, the supreme good. This definition, though, comes into clearer focus when we understand that Aristotle considered happiness as a state of human well-being that leaves nothing more to be desired. A happy man, Aristotle would say, is the man who has everything he really needs - not what he wants, but what he needs. He has those things that he needs to realize his full human potential. That is why Aristotle says that the happy man wants for nothing.
For Aristotle, a happy life is a mix of health, wealth, friendship, knowledge, nature, and virtue. Consider the modern American uberconsumer who thinks that happiness consists primarily in accumulating stuff. In order to make enough money to buy all of this stuff, he ruins his health, experiences personal alienation, does not take part in the vital life of his community, and is, consequently, subject to constant stress and anxiety. But there he sits: Captain Consumer, proudly ogling all of his stuff. Is he a happy man or is he miserable? Aristotle would say that he is miserable- the most tragic type of human misery. For he has stunted his human development. He has unintentionally deprived himself of most of the good things of life - health, wisdom, friendship, and meaningful human relationship - in order to acquire stuff. He has traded the pursuit of health and happiness for stuff.
About the author: Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., is a socially engaged philosopher and cultural sustainability advocate. Her new book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle explores critical issues from this perspective. At the end of each chapter is a list of things that you can do to create a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. For more information: http://www.sherryackerman.com
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