Do you live to work or work to live? The real question behind this question should not be about choosing one over the other. But if you didn’t think about the question long enough, if you only considered what this question has morphed over time to mean, you would probably miss the point.
Often nowadays if people are asked this question the underlying assumption is that the questioner is looking for the answerer to agree that work isn’t as big a part of their lives as time indicates. That really, even though they spend forty plus hours each week in an office working for someone else, their real life, what they value, lies outside of the work environment.
I believe the value of this question lies beneath what it is actually asking. Essentially, two polarised extremes are presented as the options for anyone being asked this question. Do you choose the first option, that boxes your work and lets you find meaning elsewhere, or do you pursue work as your way of life, looking for meaning and value there? But what about the third option that isn’t even mentioned, the option that rejects the premise of the question altogether?
What about replacing the ‘living’ and the ‘working’ closer together, making the common feature whatever it is that gives you meaning and value in your day-to-day? In other words, reject the assumption that meaning can only be found in either work or life. If you know what it is that gives a reason to get out of bed in the morning, why not put a part of that into every aspect of your life, and therefore give every aspect of your life even more meaning? If it’s something that you previously only got out of hours, look at finding a way to bring it to your ‘life’ as well and see where it leads. If you show people that you’ve made your values your life, then there is far more chance that people will take you seriously about that thing. Why do work and life have to be at opposite ends of the scale, completely removed from each other? Why not bring them closer together, widening the pool of inspiration and influence?