There’s something seriously unhealthy in the world today, and it’s called the work-ethic.
It can be simply defined as a belief in the moral value of working hard; that hard work per se leads to spiritual improvement and emotional happiness. It is a belief rooted in the Protestant/Calvinist theory that hard work is a sign of personal salvation and so the only way to prove (if only to oneself) that you are worthy of redemption from mankind’s original sin is to work hard.
There is a disturbing showiness about this; a histrionic martyrdom to drive oneself to ever greater physical and mental stress to demonstrate that you are a worthy human being. This is not a healthy way to exist; it precludes the possibility of developing a calm inner world, because of its emphasis on making ever greater personal sacrifices in the temporal world. Working so hard that you lack the time to think about yourself is not the same as being happy in yourself.
The theory behind the work ethic was gladly co-opted by modern industrial cultures as it provides a ready-made system to keep a workforce happy and contented. Work hard, and you’ll be rewarded… if not with salvation and an afterlife, at least with a promotion, a corner office and a healthy pension pot. This work ethic is a system of control that binds and blinds people to the life they are leading.
What is the alternative? I would argue it is to value personal development and internal esoteric knowledge rather than work and exoteric stress. Working hard has no value in and of itself. But hard work done in the service of understanding and the development of personal insight and emotional maturity has massive utility. Insight is the first step towards deciding what you value the most, and so taking the first steps down the road to individuation and an inner sense of tranquillity.
It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.