Why Do We Work So Hard?

Why do we work so hard? Why do we trade our rest time for work time?

  • "I couldn't find a moment's rest."
  • "The boss is a slave driver!"
  • "The kids just kept demanding more and more of me."

We hear complaints like these every day - from friends, family members, everyone.

When we agree with them and say something supportive like, "You shouldn't have to work so hard," or "Your boss should hire more help," we see mild disappointment on the complainer's face and they stop talking about it.

If we say something like, "It's wonderful that you work so hard," or "You really must be special if your boss wants so much from you," there is a self-pleased little smile and they keep on talking about it.

These people aren't complaining. They are bragging.

And what they are bragging about is hurting them!

The Root of the Working Hard Problem

To some people rest is a four-letter word. And "hard" and "work" combine to form an eight-letter word which means, "I'm important, and you should notice."

Sometimes we work so hard because we doubt our value. We try to "prove" our worth to ourselves.

Sometimes we do it as part of a conscious or subconscious strategy to get others to show that they appreciate us.

And of course there are all the "practical," money-related reasons we give ourselves: to pay off the mortgage, to save for the new car, and one of the saddest reasons of all, to pay off the credit card.

But the root cause of all our hard work at this point in history is simply that we are brainwashed into it through advertising.

Twenty-seven percent of every hour of television is devoted to advertising and the percentages are similar for radio, magazines, newspapers, and all other media.

What do corporations buy with the billions in their advertising budgets? They buy brainwashing which convinces us that we need what we only want and that we want what we don't want.

So Why Do We Work So Hard?

We work hard because we are driven to do it. Some of this may come to us directly from the wants and needs of the people closest to us, but most of it is from a force much larger than a few individuals - the economy, and the advertising that drives it.

Life is much better now than in sweatshop days. Instead of working too hard for a few cents per hour to feed our families, we work too hard to buy better housing, better food, better vehicles, better sound systems, and brief, intense vacations from all that hard work.

What Could Rest Do for You?

Many people don't even respect rest. When someone tells them to slow down they laugh incredulously and ask: "Why would I want to do that? What would that get me?" (They might as well ask how much we'll pay them to do it!)

The physical benefits of relaxation aren't a mystery. The Miller-Keane Medical Dictionary lists fifteen such benefits in three short paragraphs, including everything from improvements in metabolic rate to enhanced creativity in problem-solving.

But to experience the value of rest all we need to do is trust our bodies. Our bodies show us that rest is good by making it feel so good when we do it!

(If rest doesn't feel good to you, see a therapist.)

A Self-Improvement Project

Whenever you notice any advertisement that piques your interest, ask yourself: "How much rest would it cost me?"

Just add up all the energy it would take to enjoy what they are selling along with the energy it would take to earn the money to pay for it.

Then ask yourself: "Would this purchase make daily life any better?" If not, know that you will find a better way to spend your time, energy, and money later.


If you start to think of yourself VERSUS the things people are trying to sell you, you will feel better both psychologically and physically.

The good feeling will be there immediately, as you rest.

And many other good feelings will be there for you in the long term too, for the rest of your life.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 9). Why Do We Work So Hard?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Last Updated: January 10, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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