The Danish State of Mind

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

I’ll admit it—the above quote is a bit clichéd. Yet it’s still relevant to the dreamers and activists that hope to create a better global future. It’s the go-to mantra for all of those who believe that a single person can alter the course of history for the better.

It’s a lovely thought, and one I hope that kick-starts individuals to positively impact the earth. But let’s be frank—we can’t all be Gandhi. Part of my cynicism is mainly due to the stresses we undergo as we develop from the idealistic youth, to realistic adults. At first, we want to change the world. Then we discover social hierarchies. Then the process of having to obtain the appropriate education that costs an amount so heinous, they might as well have asked you to fork over your first born. Then comes the stress of following up the education with a job. Then supporting your family (minus the aforementioned first born) so that they may avoid the difficulties you yourself had to overcome. On top of this you are covering other expenses, such as maintaining your home, transportation, and physical health. You work harder and more, as we are under the impression that the more you work, the more you gain for yourself and your family. All of this so that you can stay afloat in what seems to be the deepest ocean. And then all of a sudden, the years are gone, and the stress doesn’t seem to leave. Sadly, this is the life of the majority of the world population, and from my perspective, this life doesn’t exactly give you the time to liberate India from imperialism. If you can balance both, you deserve to have your quotes become clichéd.

I’ll be honest, the above scenario is not one I have experienced myself. It’s an amalgamation of anecdotes I have heard throughout the half of my life I have spent in the United States, and a bit exaggerated to induce an overwhelming feeling. Of course, not everyone’s lives were structured in this manner, but there always seems to be a common underlying tone of stress and the “live to work” mentality was evident in the majority of the life stories I encountered. It seemed like a normal occurrence. But hearing these stories of exhaustion and pressure, I longed for my home country. This longing inevitably made me return to Denmark.

Remove the prevailing stress factors such as having to pay for education and health care, and the anxiety of knowing that if something goes wrong there’s a free fall to the bottom. Instead, add a system that takes care of you, figuratively giving you a starter raft in that deep ocean—a raft that you can alter as you see fit. It’s thanks to this support and safety net that the Danes have become known for their work life balance as well as their high ranking for nationwide happiness. The Danes don’t live to work—they work to live.

Alexander Kjerulf

One of them is the Danish though leader and author Alexander Kjerulf. In his book Happy Hour is from 9 to 5, he shows how people wont find satisfaction from chasing down raises and promotions, just to achieve the freedoms they believe money can buy. Instead, what works wonders in terms of life quality and happiness is to spend more time with family and friends, and make sure to do the things they are passionate about, ideally combining your work with your passion.

With a strong focus on life quality and a tightly knitted safety net, the Danes are allowed to choose occupations they enjoy, and many become even more efficient as the line between work and hobby begins to blur. Life shouldn’t be a race for money and prestige. It should be about finding joy in the daily life. At least that’s the sentiment coming back to Denmark has given me.

So does this mean that Danes will be the change we all wish to see in the world. Not likely. But it does give them the liberty to be the change they want in their own world

Images from: here


Philip Trampe

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