Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.


Working 9 to 5, It's No Way to Make a Living

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on February 11, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern emerging in my coaching clients, workshop participants and yoga students. We talk about many things together – one client might be going through a painful divorce, while a yoga student might be looking to reduce his stress. But there is one theme that keeps coming up over and over: the 9 to 5 grind.

When I share with people that I quit my job to follow my passion, their eyes light up. They might have come to a yoga class or workshop or coaching session with a certain topic in mind to discuss, but suddenly all they want to talk about is how I managed to get up the courage to leave the 9 to 5 behind.

I think this interest stems from the fact that the majority of people today are extremely unsatisfied with their jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are people out there who love what they do, and who even enjoy the 9 to 5 lifestyle – but I’m getting the sense that these people are in the minority.

I think that for many people, this job dissatisfaction isn’t occurring because they don’t like what they’re doing at work. It comes from the fact that their job doesn’t allow them to enjoy the rest of their life. They work 40 (or more) hours per week, and feel so burnt out by the time Friday rolls around that they can barely muster up the energy to spend time with friends and family.

Most people’s day from Monday to Friday looks something like this:

1 – Wake up earlier than you want to.

2 – Get stuck in traffic on the way to work.

3 – Feel stressed all day at work.

4 – Go home, throw a frozen dinner in the microwave because you’re too tired to cook.

5 – Plop down in front of the TV because you’re too exhausted to do anything else.

6 – Go to bed later than you meant to.

7 – Repeat.

In my opinion, this is not how humans are meant to live.

Think about what our ancestors’ lives were like millions of years ago. Our “jobs” were to hunt for food and reproduce. If you managed to catch enough food to feed your clan, you could spend the rest of the day relaxing around the fire (or having sex!). If you returned to your cave at 2:30pm with your catch for the day, the clan leader didn’t turn to you and say, “Sorry Jim, but I’m going to need you to go back out into the forest and keep hunting for food until 5pm because we really aren’t meeting our sales goals this month.”

On average, most Americans work 48 hours per week, and they take an average of 16 days vacation per year. People in the EU, on the other hand, take an average of 7 weeks vacation per year, with 4 weeks mandated by law.

Think about it. At some point in time, someone made up the idea that we are supposed to work for 8 hours per day. I’m not a big history buff, so I’m not sure if this shift happened because of the Industrial Revolution and the advent of factory work, but regardless, the 9 to 5 system is a structure that we created.

The good news is that if we created it, we can break it.

When I first started working full-time after I finished my Ph.D., I soon realized how much I had taken my graduate student lifestyle for granted. As a student, I could wake up when I wanted, work from home, and stop working in the middle of the afternoon if I’d worked hard enough for the day. At my full-time job, my reality got boxed into a 6 x 3 foot cubicle. It didn’t matter if I met my goals by 3pm, there was always more to do and I was expected to keep pushing for more, more, more. This was understandable in the sense that I was working for a company that was paying me to put in 8 hours per day – I don’t fault the company for that.

But the 9 to 5 lifestyle just wasn’t for me – and I think that a lot of people reading this feel the same way.

So what’s stopping you from making a change?

It’s often said that we don’t own our possessions, our possessions own us. If your fear of losing your house is keeping you from escaping the 9 to 5 rat race, then you don’t actually own your house – your house owns you. Steve Jobs once said:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

What’s more important, your house or your well-being?

I’m not saying that following your heart is easy. Far from it. Sometimes, it’s terrifying. Right now, I have no idea how much money I will be bringing in from month to month, and who knows, I might eventually have to sell my house and move into an apartment. But is following my passion worth it?


Why? Because I finally feel like I’m living life on my terms. I’m living my life on purpose. I’m refusing to subscribe to the idea that I need to work from 9 to 5 every day at a job I hate to prove my value and worth as a human being.

On the sidelines of my life, a few naysayers might be whispering, “What a waste. She spent 10 years in university, she has a Ph.D. and she wants to do airy fairy things like teach yoga and give workshops?” To these naysayers, I say, “So what?” And you should too. This is your life, not someone else’s. The Universe didn’t put you here to be a sheep following the herd.

Your soul is screaming at you to follow your heart instead. So do it. What have you really got to lose?

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Reply Neseret Bemient
5:02 PM on February 24, 2011 
Hi Bethany,

Love this post! I share your feelings in the sense of having a deep desire to live a meaningful and purposeful life in my own terms.
I'm a mental health nurse and absolutely love what I do. However with the shortage of nurses everywhere the work environment for nurses is becoming more and more overwhelming and stressful.

I'm so glad to come across your information. You're a great pioneer in changing the face of a flawed system - psychiatry/psychology. Going through your information I noticed you're shifting the focus from symptoms and labels to health and wellness. This is something that needs to happen and is going to happen.

I admire your courage to step outside the box and follow your passion. Don't worry about the naysayers. What do they know? Keep moving forward and shining your bright light!

I'd love to connect with you sometime and share ideas. You can learn more about me on my blog

Blessings and Peace,

Reply Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
5:57 PM on February 17, 2011 
Great post Janalynne! I agree with you that you don't necessarily have to quit your day job to follow your passion. I had to - but that was because my day job was draining away so much of my energy that I couldn't manage to devote any time or space to my passion. I found it really hard to research and write all day and then sit at the computer to write more in the evening! I think that everyone is different, and I love that you've highlighted another way to look at following your dreams!
Reply Janalynne Rogers
3:38 PM on February 17, 2011 
Interesting and inspiring post, Bethany. But not all of us can make such a drastic change to follow our passions... I wrote a post today about being what I call a Working Creative: someone with a day job who also makes time to feed their creative fires any way they can. I don't think there is shame in wanting the security of the day job paycheque combined with the soul-satisfying effects of using whatever time you can to follow your heart.

For most people, that's a more easily attainable state of being than giving up 9-5 cold turkey. You can check out the post here if you're interested:

Reply Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
3:21 PM on February 11, 2011 
You're very welcome Amanda! And don't worry too much about figuring out exactly what you want to be when you "grow up" - I don't think I've even figured that one out yet! We never grow up - we're just on a continuous journey during which we morph and change all the time :-)
Reply Amanda
11:17 AM on February 11, 2011 
Bethany, yet another fantastic blog post that feels like you are speaking directly to something I've been thinking! Over the past while I've been grappling with the depressing thought that I likely have 30 more years of the grind (if I'm lucky to retire at 60!). I've tried to push it out of my mind (because it is depressing!), but it keeps popping up. I just don't know what "I want to be when I grow up" so have to stay in the grind till I figure that out.

I also love your point about ignoring the naysayers. I'm sure I have a lot of naysayers who are wondering why I'm considering abandoning my PhD studies after investing so much time. I also say SO WHAT!! Thanks for inspiring me to take the steps to honoring my true self :)
Reply Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
10:43 AM on February 11, 2011 
I couldn't agree more!!
Reply Crystal Clear Coaching
10:35 AM on February 11, 2011 
I made the same move and followed my heart. Love doing many passions but being free to express myself and create my world through the power of entrepreneurism is amazaing. Through both life and business coaching I love that I can help others to do the same. There is nothing like being the boss you answer to :-). Life is short and everyday that we are not living in joy, is unfortunate. I encourage everyone to follow their heart and dream BIG!