America has a productivity problem, and it isn't that we aren't working enough. In fact, the opposite tends to be true: Americans work more hours than most industrialized countries (although that is beginning to shift).
A new study sheds light on an unexpected reason why we work so much. According to this study, the drive to accumulate more than we consume - even when it makes us unhappy - may be deeply ingrained in us. There may be an evolutionary imperative to accumulate as much as possible, then, even if our rational minds see this as unreasonable. In the U.S. in particular, this tendency is reinforced by cultural values that elevate a strong work ethic and the accumulation of wealth as paths to happiness.
The toll that such over-working can take on our psychological, physical, and spiritual health cannot be overstated. We place our bodies and minds under relentless, unnecessary stressors; we do not live in the present moment; and most importantly, we don't have time for the things in life that actually matter. Research into what factors promote a sense of well-being consistently show that intimate, trusting, loving relationships with others have the greatest impact. How can we spend time with the people we love if we're working all the time?
Human beings have such an incredible mixture of animal instincts and higher consciousness. As with many instinctual drives that no longer serve a legitimate purpose in our modern world, this drive to accumulate is a call for mindfulness: Just as we don't have to act on every impulse or engage with every thought, neither do we need to yield to an irrational desire to hoard. It can be useful to recognize when your mind and body are "tricking" you into believing something that isn't true, or compelling you to do something you really shouldn't. Don't be fooled.