A post popped up on Inspiration Nation  discussing the article on Overwhelm I wrote in 2005. If you haven’t tried it, I also created a free companion email overload assessment to figure out how many sushi dinners worth of time you’re sacrificing to the Great Gods of Email Overlaod.

The overload situation hasn’t improved since I wrote the article. The 40-hour workweek is widely considered to be a thing of the past. Corporate profits continue to reach all-time highs, so we’re definitely making more money. But so what? Wages are flat or, if you adjust for inflation and higher energy prices, falling. Why does a “good economy” matter if we have to give up our free time and relationships for a falling standard of living? The outgoing MBA graduates I occasionally coach assume they’ll have no life in their pursuit of … the good life?

I’m very puzzled. I’m puzzled that we’ve been so thoroughly trained to confuse buying stuff with happiness (and the two just don’t equate). I’m puzzled we believe it makes sense to give up time with friends and family so we can earn enough to … take time off and spend it with friends and family. And I’m puzzled that even when we are being more productive, we aren’t more outraged that the benefits of that productivity are accruing to people who already have so much money they can’t possibly use any more.

It’s puzzling. And it’s a world we’ve made for ourselves. And if we want change, we’ll have to change it ourselves.

I think it’s a natural progression of our underlying economic system. Our success measures are all growth measures: economic growth, profitability growth, productivity growth. As long as we require yearly growth, it has to come from somewhere. We must get more productive to have productivity growth, and corporations must retain a greater percentage of that gain each year to produce profit growth. That means cutting back on little expenses like healthcare or payroll.

There’s nothing wrong with a nice, stable business that makes a consistent profit year after year, but somehow, we’ve decided that’s not enough. Which is a shame, because thanks to our imperative of growth, many of us have less and less of a life each year.

Overload is built in to our economy. Poor us.

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