Research: The Industrial Revolution Left Psychological Scars That Can Still Be Seen TodayOur research shows that a region’s historical industries leave a lasting imprint on the local psychology, which remains even when those industries are no longer dominant or have almost completely disappeared. We found that in regions like Blaenau Gwent in the UK and the Rust Belt in the U.S., people reported more unhappy personality traits, lower life satisfaction, and lower life expectancy than otherwise similar regions where these industries did not dominate (think Sussex and Dorset in the non-industrial South of England and regions in the American West). For example, in the UK, neuroticism was 33% higher, conscientiousness 26% lower, and life satisfaction 29% lower in these areas compared with the rest of the country. This effect was robust even when controlling for other historical factors that might have affected the well-being of regions, such as historical energy supply, education, wealth, geology, population density, and climate.
To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think About ItWho we work with is as important as what we do. Psychologist Martin Seligman (among others) has written extensively on the importance of relationships to happiness and fulfillment (it’s a core element of his “PERMA” model for flourishing); and the now famous Harvard Grant Study found that happiness and even financial success are tied to the warmth of one’s relationships, with the study’s chief architect famously concluding, “Happiness is love. Full stop.”
Why Do Rich People Love Endurance Sports?One hypothesis is that endurance sports offer something that most modern-day knowledge economy jobs do not: the chance to pursue a clear and measurable goal with a direct line back to the work they have put in. In his book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, philosopher Matthew Crawford writes that “despite the proliferation of contrived metrics,” most knowledge economy jobs suffer from “a lack of objective standards.”
Work keeps the demons at bayOne of the most frequently mentioned techniques that helped our research participants manage their symptoms was work. “Work has been an important part of who I am,” said an educator in our group. “When you become useful to an organization and feel respected in that organization, there’s a certain value in belonging there.” This person works on the weekends too because of “the distraction factor.” In other words, by engaging in work, the crazy stuff often recedes to the sidelines.
Affluence = time more valuable = multi-taskingSo being busy can make you rich, but being rich makes you feel busier still. Staffan Linder, a Swedish economist, diagnosed this problem in 1970. Like Becker, he saw that heady increases in the productivity of work-time compelled people to maximise the utility of their leisure time. The most direct way to do this would be for people to consume more goods within a given unit of time. To indulge in such “simultaneous consumption”, he wrote, a chap “may find himself drinking Brazilian coffee, smoking a Dutch cigar, sipping a French cognac, reading the New York Times, listening to a Brandenburg Concerto and entertaining his Swedish wife—all at the same time, with varying degrees of success.” Leisure time would inevitably feel less leisurely, he surmised, particularly for those who seemed best placed to enjoy it all. The unexpected product of economic progress, according to Linder, was a “harried leisure class”.
To balance giving and accomplishing, carve out work-only periodsThe engineers could set aside windows during which they were not allowed to interrupt one another. After some trial and error, the team earmarked Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 AM until noon for quiet time, leaving the rest of the week for collaborative work, including helping one another solve problems. Perlow found that the quiet time yielded above-average productivity for 65% of the engineers. Three months later the team launched the laser printer, right on schedule. It was only the second time in the history of the division that a product had launched without delays, and the vice president credited the quiet time as the reason.
Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. […]Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. […]You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this.
People who perceive their father to have a strong career-orientation are more likely to be career-oriented themselves—but career-determined mothers have no effect on their kids’ work orientation. The researchers attributed this to generational gender norms. When the study’s participants were teenagers, mostly in the 1980s, men were more commonly employed outside of the home and were more likely than women to hold “career” jobs with opportunity for advancement. + Mothers do have a notable effect on whether children have a job-orientation mentality. Adolescents who are close to their mothers are less likely to view work as just a job when they grow up, probably because they’ve been raised to value social, rather than instrumental, life experiences. + Having both parents display the same work ethic has an amplified influence, but only in the case of calling-oriented offspring. As our capitalist society favors money and professional achievement, a child with two calling-oriented parents is more likely to have the confidence to ignore these societal pressures and pursue her dreams.
"Vacations improve freshness and productivity," said Joe Robinson, author of "Don't Miss Your Life" and a work/life balance speaker, trainer, and strong advocate of regular vacations. "Vacations have been shown to increase your on-the-job performance as much as 40 percent when you return. So having rested employees is really critical for business."
Allen ventured a slightly different explanation. "You know in a mental institution they sometimes give a person some clay or some basket weaving?" he said. "It's the therapy of moviemaking that has been good in my life. If you don't work, it's unhealthy—for me, particularly unhealthy. I could sit here suffering from morbid introspection, ruing my mortality, being anxious. But it's very therapeutic to get up and think, Can I get this actor; does my third act work? All these solvable problems that are delightful puzzles, as opposed to the great puzzles of life that are unsolvable, or that have very bad solutions. So I get pleasure from doing this. It's my version of basket weaving."