The first four chapters were focused on Optimizing Catholicism. These were Catholic ideals I aspire to, above the bare minimum requirements to be a Catholic. The remaining four chapters are focused on Optimizing Life. These are ideals that are not unique to being Catholic but represent the organization of life around Catholicism. The Catholic faith stresses specific virtues that Catholics should be expressing when they are out in the world.
In reality, I am a representative of Catholicism when I am out in the world. How I act in the world reflects back on the Church. If I am acting as a Catholic should, the people around me will think highly of the faith. If I am not, however, people around me will criticize both myself and the Church for being hypocrites. This is the primary cause of scandal for Catholics.
Chapter 5: Work includes both the work I have to do to pay the bills and the basic chores that need to be done as part of life. Anytime you see “work” assume it includes both work and chores unless stated otherwise by context.
Ideal 5.1: I should always do a hard day’s work.
If I have a job, I should make sure I do everything my employer expects me to do. I can never become lazy and start wasting time chatting with coworkers or surfing the Internet. These are okay during break times, but when I am on the clock, I must do the work I have been assigned. If occasionally, I need to work late to get the job done, I shouldn’t complain about it. I should work patiently to get everything done. If I finish my work early, I should see if I can help any coworkers with their work. I might also be able to help the company directly by cleaning shared workspaces or researching future work.
If I always do a hard day’s work, my employer will value my contributions over time. At best, I will be promoted more often than the lazy workers. At worst, I will have a much higher chance of keeping my job during a round of layoffs. Any extra money earned through this can be given to my spouse or children to improve their lives or to charity for the less fortunate in the world.
This also includes getting my daily chores done. Many chores need to be done in a certain order, so I should plan out each day what chores I need to do that day. I should write a to-do list of all these chores. When I get off work, I should finish those chores. I will be nice and relaxed at the end of the day knowing my responsibilities were met.
Ideal 5.2: I should not become obsessive about work.
I shouldn’t work just to get rich or to have money to buy everything I want. I should work enough to pay my bills, save for my goals, and donate money to church & charity. The rest of my free time should be resting to recuperate for more work or donating my time for service. I need to serve God, others, and myself. Work mostly serves myself. I should get home at a reasonable time, so I have time to serve God and others. Some days I will have to work late to get everything done, but it shouldn’t be an everyday thing. If that becomes reality, I need to talk to my employer to see if changes can be made. If they aren’t willing to do anything, I need to start looking for another job or maybe even find another profession.
This ideal is not in conflict with Ideal 5.1. I should work hard but not too hard. I should make sure the needs are met. If God has a choice between my money or my time, he will always choose my time. God would much rather I be poor and spending a lot of time serving Him and others than being rich and donating a lot to charity. Jesus was poor, and he went to heaven, so reducing my reliance on money as much as possible is my path to heaven too.
Ideal 5.3: I should take breaks during work.
At most companies I am entitled to one large break and two small breaks for an eight hour shift. I should take those breaks. I shouldn’t just work through them. They are there for a reason. I need food to work at my best. I also need some time off to rest my brain. A good practice for the short breaks is taking a slow walk while praying to God. Some places might have a bench with a good view I can rest at. The key thing is to get away from my work. I must forget it for a few minutes. I shouldn’t worry about it. I can thank God for any good things that have happened so far that day and ask Him for help on any things I am struggling with that day. When I get back to work, my mind will be refreshed. I will be sharper, able to work faster and more efficiently.
The same is true for chores. Chores are work too. I shouldn’t work non-stop when I get home. I should take breaks for meals and to rest just as I do at my job. The more chores I try to do while tired, the more mistakes I will make. Mistakes waste time, which could be used for more leisure or more service work.
Ideal 5.4: I should finish work before leisure.
This is a simple one. If there is work to be done, I should get it done first before relaxing. That may mean some nights I don’t get any free time, but most nights I should have some free time to do what I please. Lumping all my work together makes it easier to see how much free time I really have per day. Then I can more easily decide how much time to volunteer. This does not override the ideal to take breaks during work though. My body needs regular short breaks to do my best job.
Ideal 5.5: I should find happiness in my work.
Happiness is all in the mind. I can be happy without money, without seeing the latest episode of my favorite TV show, without owning the latest gadget, without even having time to relax. Some of the happiest people on earth are poor. Some parents work a full day for their job, then come home and work all evening for their kids. They never get to do what they want to do, but they are still happy. When I am crawling into bed, I should have satisfaction that I got my work done even if I never got any free time to myself. Of course, I can always be happier if I get to do what I want, but I can still be happy on the days I don’t get to do what I want.