Last week, I didn’t have much work to do, and most of what I had to do was quite menial and not very stimulating on a cognitive level. It’s not that often I get weeks as free as that, but it happened, and most of my time was spent doing my usual routine activities, and in my enormous amounts of free time, I was able to spend it with games and leisurely activities.
That comes off as a good thing, but in fact by the end of the week, I was a very grumpy, unhappy person. I had lots of time to do recreational activities, but I was deeply dissatisfied. A slow day or week at work isn’t a good thing, although there are people out there who seem to think it is.
Productivity and the fruits it rewards you with is an incredibly important aspect of human flourishing, and I’ll explain why.
Productivity: The Source of Flourishing
If one has all the time in the world to play around, consume and produce nothing, then that person will eventually end up miserable, and I am absolutely certain of that. Productivity is the process of using your mind to create something of value – whether it be teaching student’s, writing a book, selling a product, etc. It can be an enormous amount of things, and is dependent on what it is that one values in their lives.
This process is also deeply integrated with the concept of self-esteem, which is essentially the reputation you have with yourself. What self-esteem asks of you are two questions: “Am I able to survive and flourish on my own?” and “Do I deserve it?”. The first question is usually the one most functional adults are capable of saying yes to. The second one however is a mixed bag, and it’s part of why you cannot be happy if you do nothing but consume.
Productivity is self-generated action via the process of abstraction, which you then make a concrete value in reality. By creating a value, you are effectively showing your ability to survive in the world. The act of a young man working at McDonald’s to produce burgers, which in turn provides him with monetary compensation which he plans to save and use for a degree – that is productivity and earning one’s self esteem. His actions are explicitly answering both questions – yes, he can survive on his own, and the long term reward answers “and I deserve this.” If he were to take time off for recreational activities here and there, he’d damn well enjoy them, because he earned that rest.
Consume What You Deserve
So what does this have to do with an unproductive week, and excessive consumption? Consumption on its own is an implicit recognition that you are dependent on values produced by others. To only consume is to say “Yes I can survive, but I live off the fruits of others.” Does this mean that one cannot consume what others produce? No, that would be a very narrow way of thinking. The point is that consumption, on its own, cannot work without productivity. Enjoying the fruits of your labor necessarily requires that one produce something to earn those fruits in the first place. What makes the fruits so good is the fact that you worked for them. You can survive on your own, and you damn well earned it, too.
The unproductive week was a psychological trap – it put me into a zombie state where I essentially had nothing to do. The ‘earnings’ I received did not feel earned at all, and that in turn led to an unusually moody state. Initially, I did not recognize this fact. I noticed that I wasn’t as energized or as happy as I usually am, but upon some introspection it occurred to me that the week was uneventful and extraordinarily unproductive. The fruits weren’t deserved, so to speak.
Keep that in mind when you’ve had a bad week, and are not sure why. Ask yourself “Have I been productive this week?” If the answer is no, then you ought to get thinking!