[PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING] Is life easy or hard?

Life is hard. From a young age, we are taught that we will go to school for 12 years. Some will move on to four more years of education because they have been taught that it is the only way to succeed. Then, we will get a job, preferably one with high social status. This job must make enough money for us to provide for ourselves. We must be able to buy food, have shelter and transportation and possibly support a family. And then, someday, we must look back on our lives and be proud of what we achieved: it’s a lot.

According to The American Institute of Stress, 33% of Americans report feeling extreme stress, and 77% report that stress impacts their mental health. The leading causes of stress in America are money, work, the economy, family, relationships; the list goes on.

If so many people are stressed, then it is reasonable to assume that life is hard. But, technically, life is just the existence of an individual. In that sense, life is not hard. Notice that sleeping or breathing in oxygen are not leading causes of stress. Existing takes practically no effort for humans, so what makes life so complicated and stressful when it is so inherently easy?

As we have become more technologically advanced as a society, the idea is that we are making life easier for ourselves. People no longer have to hunt and gather for food, shelter provides heating and cooling systems and it has become much easier to stay alive. These developments directly make life easier for humans. But while staying alive may have become easier, day-to-day life has become much more complex with the addition of societal norms and expectations.

Since it has become easier to survive, humans have been able to put their focus on more personal goals. These goals come with pressure, competition and stress to succeed. This paired with the extremely high prices of living, creates a stressful environment that is easy to keep up with. For example, the average American household spends about $4,500 per month on housing, transportation, taxes, food and healthcare.

On top of that, there are social and cultural pressures on what people should do with their life. Even if a person is able to survive, there is pressure to live a prosperous life. This could include higher education, a healthy lifestyle, romantic relationships and more. The pressure to feel like one is exceeding expectations and being successful is enormous, even though success is objective. Society has created a standard of living that can be unattainable for many to reach.

So, even if the concept of staying alive is easy, the standards and pressure humans have put on themselves to succeed make life increasingly difficult.