You know what really needs attention? What working like crazy and taking no time off really gets us:
1. Sick. Americans spend almost twice as much on health care per person than people in other advanced nations – paying out of pocket, while other countries pool resources — and we suffer more injuries and illnesses and die younger, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report.
2. Stressed. America may be the richest nation on earth, but the World Health Organization has found it is also the most anxious, with nearly one-third of all Americans likely to suffer from anxiety in their lifetime.
3. Stupid. In a study of brains using functional MRI technology, scientists at the Yale Stress Center have found that subjects who both lived through stressful events (and who hasn’t?) and felt stressed out had smaller brain volumes than less-stressed subjects in critical areas of the prefrontal cortex that govern thinking, planning, decision making, learning and remembering.
4. Off Balance. The United States ranks toward the bottom of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s work-life balance scale. And a growing number of Americans report feeling rushed, pressed for time, that they don’t spend enough time with their families, and at the end of the day, haven’t gotten to all the things they needed to do, much less wanted to do.
5. Disengaged. Gallup estimates that 70 percent of all workers are disengaged from their jobs, costing between $450-$550 billion each year in productivity. And although American productivity looks mighty in international comparisons, slice that productivity by hours worked, and the United States falls several rungs – in some years even below those countries whose workers stroll home in the evening after a shorter, more intense work day, stop by a café and take the entire month of August off. Off.
So yes, America, work hard. Hoo-ah American ingenuity, gumption and drive. But remember that inspiration comes in the shower, on a walk, in a moment of rest, not when your nose is to the grindstone. It’s just the way our brains are wired.
Remember that even hardworking Bill Gates typically gives himself Think Weeks, cloistered away twice a year, owns an island off Belize, vacations in Croatia, plays bridge and tennis to relax and reads in his palatial library. The hardworking Wright Brothers were only able to invent the first flying machine because they took a break from their busy bicycle shop, leaving Ohio to camp out in North Carolina’s Outer Banks in their leisure time for months.