Our Way of Work Is Shifting: Why Inner Work is the New 9–5

If I had a dime for every time my therapist ever told me to “do the work”, I’d be a millionaire. And yet, despite my best efforts, I had literally no idea what she meant. I accumulated diagnoses and prescriptions until I actually shifted my life around and made meaningful changes. It took years, and it started in 2018 when I quit my job.

So why am I so compelled to write now 4 years later? I think the world could learn something from my first few years of “working for myself”. As more Americans are participating in The Great Resignation, I think there are more people out there like me.

So if you’re like me and your world got thrown upside down and you’d rather never don a pair of work slacks again, hear me out.

A recreation of me interacting with my therapist when she told me that I should do something as asinine as “self-reflect”. No therapists were harmed in this meme creation.

Why We Needed Out

Let’s first discuss why you absolutely, 100% need to quit your job. How do I know you need to quit your job? Well because you clicked on this article and you’re still reading. You must be curious. If you’re curious enough to see how we can shift the way we see work, you’re curious enough to start self-reflecting on your own employment.

Jobs suck. Not because of the water cooler chat, or the stupid emails, or “Jan you’re on mute” meme-worthy gags, but because your work isn’t being valued.

Enter, the true star of the show, “Capitalism”. I don’t mean to beat a broken drum, but yes, a vast majority of our problems are indeed capitalism. A literal majority of people no longer consider capitalism to be the best way to build our future society, and yet, here we are still doing it.

So what is capitalism? “Capital” means money (or things that are worth money). The “ism” you see there- according to the dictionary, that suffix means a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement. All together, capitalism is a system of money.

Money Just Ain’t It

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that money is just not everything. Our lives, those we love, and how we spend our time mean more to us.

Back in 2018, when I finally left my job, I didn’t give a shit how much money was in the bank account, I was going to either lose the money from quitting or be stuck trying to fund my trip to the mental hospital. Either way, I was in the red.

I didn’t end up getting hospitalized, but I did commit to a ton of therapy and self-reflection. I started with workbooks, notebooks, and my first attempt at meditation. Much of the world also took up such practices when they were first told to stay home to work or when they couldn’t find toilet paper. We all paused, made some sourdough bread, and reflected.

This allowed us to zoom out in a big way. In our world, there is love, joy, peace, creativity, social change, environmental change, and more. There are so many “isms”. Yet when we considered what we were putting our time and energy into, why were we choosing that put money on the top of the list?

I don’t know about you, but I want our world to be curious, peaceful, and inspired- not just full of “capital”. Money is a means to an end, not a concept to value in and of itself. When we value the number in our bank account more than we value how many ways we made the world a better place in a day- what the hell are we even doing?

Working For Yourself

So we quit working for “The Man”, great, but now what? What on earth do we do with all this damn time on our hands? How many times can we binge watch Netflix until we realize that it just makes us feel like crap too? When we take something we’re accustomed to away, we miss it. Sure the rage-filled walk out of your cubicle feels great, but months later and wondering what you’re even doing with your life doesn’t have the same zeal.

Let me get one thing really clear, I do heartily believe in work. I believe in getting dressed, doing something for this world, and making a difference. It took me years to be able to rebound from the ways I had attached my self-worth to my financial success, but I’ve made some damn good progress on that front.

But Becky! You just told me to quit my job and now you’re saying you believe in work!?

Yeah, I know, it can be confusing. I promise I’m not out of my mind.

Let’s break this down. What even is “Work”?

Work- (n) activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.

You know what is literally the craziest thing? It doesn’t mention money. Not once. Nowhere in the definition of work is there any indication that you need to get money for doing it. All that you need to do to be “working” is to show up and put some effort into doing a thing. Writing a book? Work. Cooking dinner for your family? Work. Unpacking your childhood trauma so as to create a clearer sense of self? Really freaking hard work.

We are so attached to this idea that our efforts need to be rewarded for us to be valid as humans. I can’t be the only one who has completed a craft literally only one time and had the legitimate thought, “maybe I can monetize this and sell on Etsy?”

We deserve to relax and let ourselves enjoy life and the creative process. In fact, we absolutely need to. Our capitalistic society has created over 85 different flavors of Oreos, and yet we’re still sitting on issues like global warming. The more we force creativity, the less creative we become.

When we don’t make space for creative thinking on large world issues, we’re left with whatever this is. I don’t know about you, but this does little to squelch my fears over race relations or our ongoing political divide.

The New 9 to 5

When we separate out this idea of work from money and merely see it as a way to make the world a better place- that's a definition I can sink my teeth into.

The future of work isn’t a bleak one. I believe there are ways to express ourselves authentically, creatively, and feel safe- I just also think we all need to pitch into making that happen. First step, quit your job. Second step, create something that changes all this.

Ghandi told us to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” and we need to rise to the occasion and do just that. Our next great frontier relies on us working for ourselves, by working on ourselves. Your work is important. So the next time your therapist tells you to “do the work”, don’t roll your eyes, roll up your sleeves.

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Becky Meadows

Becky Meadows

Writing about mental health, personal growth, writing, UX, marketing, food, and more! Open to help your brand grow: rebeccananns1@gmail.com