These questions will help you discover if you're obsessed with work—and to find a solution before it's too late.
We read in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone will not work, let him not eat.” Work, then, appears to be obligatory for everyone. It’s a gift, a gift of life; it’s a virtue and a human value. It’s a temporary duty that must be faithfully fulfilled by each person doing their duty according to their own state in life and particular circumstances.
Of course, work is a virtue, but in order for it to remain so, proper balance must be kept. If not, it becomes the opposite of a virtue, a vice – just like laziness is a vice, but in the opposite direction. Laziness is easy for us to recognize; how many people count the hours until they can go home, as if they had an allergy to work. But beware: there exists the opposite extreme, where we find work addicts or workaholics.
These are people who are obsessed with work, to which they consecrate almost all their lives, both while at their place of work and while at home. When they are not working, they feel uncomfortable, almost sick with emptiness, and they can even suffer depression or anguish. These individuals are never satisfied with what they do; for them, no work is enough, and they never see any task as finished to their satisfaction.
In the workplace, it can be a serious problem, because they wrongly have the same expectations of others. That is to say, they want everyone to keep up with them, to work at their pace, keep as busy a schedule as they do, and so on. This generates tremendous frustration and dissatisfaction because, fortunately, the majority of people know how to set healthy limits in this area of their lives; they are aware that we should work to live—not live to work.
How can you tell if you are obsessed with work?
Here are some questions that can help you know if you are a workaholic—and, even more importantly, they can help you solve this problem before it becomes an even bigger one.
Remember that an addiction, whatever kind it may be, not only affects the person who has it, but also the person’s entire family and social environment.
- Do you take work home once a week or more? This includes continuing to work from home despite the presence of your spouse and children, sending emails or text messages to both employees and clients outside working hours, without regard for the right (and need) that everyone has to rest and to disconnect from work.
- Your social life is almost nil. You do everything you can to avoid going out with friends, or with your spouse and children. Unconsciously, you think that, if you are not at work at the office, it is best to be home. “What a homebody,” some might think. No, not at all! It is simply easier and more comfortable to work from home than in another place. And if you get together with friends, most of the time–if not all the time–all you talk about is work, problems with your employees or your boss, projects you have in mind, etc.
- You have constant arguments with your family or spouse, if you are married, because they feel neglected because they are not receiving from you the attention they deserve, because you are more focused on your work or business than on your loved ones, even when home.
- You have neglected your spouse with your obsession with work, under the pretext of “giving the job your best,” and you even shy away from intimacy and take work to bed.
- At night, before going to sleep, you think about everything that happened during the day at work and what you will do tomorrow.
- You like to work under pressure: adrenaline pushes you, and you need it to feel alive.
- You are constantly connected, 24/7, and your computer, the internet, and the telephone are as vital to you as the air you breathe. You sleep with them next to you … of course, you would say, in case there is an emergency.
- If you leave home without your phone, laptop or tablet you must have been thoroughly distracted. It would be easier for you to leave behind your spouse, or to forget to put on your underwear, than to forget to bring your toys.
- You have egotistical attitudes because you think that your work obligations are always more important than any family commitment.
- You are always the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. Without even being aware of it, you can work more than 12 hours a day—and still feel dissatisfied.
- It frustrates you that others do not work the same way you do and at your pace. You do not know how to delegate tasks. You think that nobody can do the job like you can, so you prefer to do everything yourself, even if you get sick from stress due to overload.
- Vacation and holidays seem like a waste of time to you, so you prefer not even to talk about them. And when you do take time off because your family “forced” you to, you “take advantage” of being in that particular place to visit clients or prospects with the excuse that you are “already there.”
- You eat at odd hours. Such is your obsession with non-stop work that you skip meals, or you feed yourself poorly. Your levels of stress and anxiety are very high because you allow neither your body nor your mind to rest enough to recover from the mental and physical overload to which you constantly subject them. This is quite serious because in due time you will see emotional, endocrine, respiratory, digestive, dermatological, and even cardiovascular problems surface … Do you want to continue that way?
We fall into this addiction, or into any other, when we are unable to express or deal with what we feel, what we are carrying inside, in words or in any other healthy way. That’s why we look for an “escape,” an unhealthy way of coping. As you see, part of the solution to this addiction—and to any other—is to discover the root cause of this behavior and resolve the underlying issues. This requires self-discovery and the healing of emotional wounds, among other possible causes, that are causing you to act this way. The help of a professional counselor or therapist is hugely helpful, and often absolutely necessary.
It would be worthwhile for you to take a break and reflect on this: How much life is your salary costing you? Because even if you are the owner of your own company, there is always a cost.
Put your feet back on the ground
There has only been one King Midas. You are human, and you will not turn everything you touch into gold. The world will continue to turn without you. You have limits, and it is healthy for you to recognize that. To achieve true success, you need to embrace an intelligent value system and live a balanced life. You can’t do all this on your own; don’t hesitate to seek professional help, both emotionally and spiritually, before it is too late.
So, less arrogance and more humility. No obsessive behavior, however noble it may seem—such as working yourself to death—will lead you to live a full and happy life. Take care of and protect your family and yourself. No professional success justifies failure in family life. Recognize that this obsession with work is neither normal nor healthy, and that besides hurting you, it is also hurting the people most valuable to you: your family. They love you, and they need your presence and your time—in both both quality and quantity.
What will you have gained, if tomorrow you die and become the wealthiest person in the cemetery, but your family never even misses your presence because you were an absentee spouse and parent? Almost everything in life is replaceable—even you, in your role as an employee, boss, or owner of your company—but no one else can occupy your place as spouse and as parent; there, you are unique. Wake up! The people whom you truly love (and who love you best) are not your professional colleagues, employees, or bosses: they are the ones who call you “my love” and “Daddy” or “Mommy.”
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