An Open Letter to Workaholics: It's Time For Self Reflection Turning yourself into a workaholic has a disastrous compounding effect to your time, your relationships, your health and, ironically, your work. Here's what I learned about life after realizing it's not all about my job.
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I've destroyed my career, destabilized my marriage and dishonored my relationships, all while wearing the badge of a workaholic, as if it excused my poor behavior and even worse decisions.
As I'm certain you are aware, it can take years of extraordinary sacrifice to achieve your professional goals. Sometimes, not always, you'll find out there could've been other ways to get there.
There is a cost of living that is not monetary and relates completely and solely to well-being. If that's not nourished — or worse, neglected along the way — the compounding effect will devastate, wreck, ruin and ultimately annihilate the groundwork you've laid.
To achieve my professional goals, I'd given up almost everything. I'd labored through great sickness, mentally and physically, and rather consistently from the day I entered the workforce. I'd almost entirely skipped on personal engagements. I freely disengaged from family life responsibilities. Religion saw me as a stranger at church once a year at Christmas. I was all in at work. For a long time, doing that yielded great material success. And it was never enough. I was never enough.
While this "not enough syndrome" originated in my childhood, it certainly could've been adjusted had I made a few simple course corrections to my life. What could that have looked like? Freedom.
My modus opernadi was in the business of "doing good." I thought of myself as kind and benevolent. In tandem with and apart from my career, I worked with charities, gave to charities and helped fundraise for charities.
By age 34, I'd proven success and had references by the dozen. I was literally at the height of career. By age 35, I was persona non grata. What happened in the course of a year?
To be fair, I was wearing blinders for much longer than a year. And I had done way more than one thing to upset the apple cart. But largely, as it turned out, my motives were not to "do good," as I initially thought.
I made choices for me. I made choices to build myself up; to make myself look good. I didn't choose to be a workaholic for my charitable endeavors because I cared deeply for the causes; I did it because I had to prove I could do what others could not — that I could succeed where the others before me failed — and then trumpet my success.
I used pay-for-play media to further develop my reputation. I inflated accomplishments. And I alienated colleagues, reports, friends and family along the way with my rigidity for keeping either business or self-promotion at the forefront of every conversation.
I was 100% ego, and probably even now, I am still a vast majority ego. However, I am making strides in change — and change, as we all know, is far more difficult than standing still. And while my use of ego may differ greatly from yours, don't be fooled into thinking it is any less dangerous.
For a long time, I thought that I was free. Since I chose how I decided to spend my time, I resolved that having "choice" freed me. Having "choice" doesn't free; choosing with balance frees. It took me just about right up until this moment to really get that. And hopefully, I'll still get it by the time you're reading this.
So what does that mean, choosing with balance? Well, plainly, that will be a very different answer for each individual. Just ensure there is not too much of any one thing that occupies a majority of your focus, and that you make growth choices you may not normally jump into with open arms.
In fact, not allowing yourself to be open to such opportunities can be detrimental to your mental health and lead to anxiety, depression and burnout. According to Mind Share Partners' 2021 Mental Health at Work Report, "productivity losses are growing. On average, workers reported performing at 72% of their full capability."
Some folks, including myself, believe "more is more," especially when "more" still means living in your comfort zone. Surely this is a way to feel continually filled. However, much like a balloon, there is only so much one can handle — mentally, physically or otherwise — and just as true, if you never step outside your comfort zone, you're not allowing room for other experiences to develop, especially those you're closed off from exploring.
Great ideas are forced to the surface through pressure, but paradigm shifts come about with a healthy dose of boredom and curiosity. You should always leave room for the unknown, the unplanned, the unexpected and the unfamiliar. You'll be rewarded with more than just learning to balance what you can and can't control, but it will create a life that's more meaningful, fulfilling and full.
It took a media frenzy, my resignation, hundreds of hours of therapy and more medication combinations than I can count for me to learn this lesson: I am enough, less can be much more and life only happens as it happens (and you only get one life). When you start to look at how many birthdays you'll average in your life, time settles into perspective and choices start to become important.
This importance is rooted in your perception of what is it you want to get done while you're existing on this planet. We get one life. That's it, and it's gone. How will you choose to spend it?