Ah, Labor Day. Can you believe summer is almost over? The chill is already in the air and school will be starting soon. We had a fun summer, but it was too hectic. The beginning of autumn will still be busy for us with a new school, FinCon (financial blogger conference), visiting family, and job training (Mrs. RB40). After October, everything should slow down, though. We’re really looking forward to hunkering down and taking it easy for a while.

Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day holiday. Labor Day celebrates workers who have made our country prosperous. Workers have came a long way since Labor Day was made a national holiday. Our wage and hours are a lot reasonable, but workers are still dissatisfied and disgruntled. So in honor of Labor Day, let’s complain about our jobs a bit.

avoid becoming institutionalized by your job

Image from Shawshank Redemption, a great movie.

Work as an institution

A while back, Jason, a reader, brought up the idea of workers being institutionalized. This is quite interesting because I haven’t thought of it that way before. When I hear the word institutionalized, I usually think of prison, but I guess work can become like a prison, too. We can get used to the office environment and forget there are many alternative ways to live.

When I was an engineer, I never really considered living life any other way. I put up with the stress and demands of the job. I worked long hours when a project was due. I went to mandatory meetings that weren’t relevant to my work. I did what I needed to do for those paychecks. Eventually, work became 90% chores and 10% fun. I put up with the negatives until I started to have some physical and mental health issues. That’s when I knew I had to get out somehow. I had worked at the same company for 16 years so there was quite a bit of institutionalization to overcome.

Income – The first thing we had to do was to figure out how to survive without my income. It took a few years, but eventually we came up with a combination that worked for us. We saved and invested our money in income generating assets like dividend stocks and rental properties. I also found a way to make a little income from blogging and that helped immensely. Mrs. RB40 continues to work so at least we have one stable source of income for now.

Structure – Work provides a big part of the structure in our lives. My day was dictated by work from getting up at 7 am until I got home at 6:30 pm. Those days were usually full of meetings and projects. Upon retirement/quitting your job, your day will be completely unstructured. Many people seem to have a problem with this. You have to find your own reason for getting out of bed. For me, it’s pretty easy because Junior wakes me up before 7 am every morning. Being a stay at home dad fills up my schedule quite nicely.

Social life – Our social life often revolves around our coworkers because we spend so much time together. It can be tough to leave the people you talk with every day. You’ll have to find ways to make new friends once you leave the old office environment. This can be challenging when you retire or become self employed especially if you’re an introvert like me. I still struggle with this. I think it’s harder to make new friends as you get older, too. When you’re 3, every new kid you meet is your friend. I’m a bit jealous of the little munchkins.

Status – A job gives you status and a sense of belonging. When I was working fulltime, I could tell new people that I meet that I am an engineer and they’ll instantly have an idea of what I do. Now, it’s a bit more difficult because people don’t know what to think when I tell them I’m a stay at home dad/blogger. I have to go into a lengthy explanation and as an introvert, I don’t really like doing that. I imagine it would be more difficult to retire or change career if you have a prestigious job like being an executive, doctor, or a lawyer.

Job security – Job security is a good thing, but it can institutionalize you. If you find yourself doing just enough to get by because your job is secure, then it might be time to reexamine your career. We need to keep growing to feel happy. It’s not fun to stagnate at your job even if it is secure.

Don’t be institutionalized by your job

So are you happy working at your job? Or are you just there because of the paycheck? Don’t become institutionalized by your job. You need to keep your options open. Here are some of the things that you can do to avoid being stuck in a job you don’t like.

  • Always be on the lookout for a new job or career.
  • Acquire new skills so you can direct your own life/career.
  • Try self employment.
  • Take a sabbatical to figure things out.
  • Figure out how to make money doing something you enjoy.
  • Take on some side hustles.
  • Go back to school to change careers.
  • Travel and see how other people live.
  • Have a social life outside of work.
  • Work toward financial independence so you have more options.
  • Read and get inspired. There are a lot of books and blogs about how people changed their lives.
  • Anymore tips from our readers?

Life is short and you need to enjoy your work. Okay, this is a bit longer than I intended so let’s wrap it up. Those baby back ribs aren’t going to BBQ themselves. Here is what I’d like to hear from our readers.

If money isn’t an issue, would you keep working in your current job? Why or why not?

Have a great Labor Day!


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