When career becomes life and there are virtually no boundaries in between, work is no longer a connection. How could it possibly be? There’s nothing it can connect you to! In the same way an alcoholic hides behind a bottle, you could be using your work (or rather, be a workaholic) to protect yourself from life beyond the office walls. If so, you could wake up at age 60 with nothing to show for your days except an overflowing outbox. Working too hard for too long drains the impetus to initiate in the other areas of life. And there are strong pulls toward this kind of excess. In your heart of hearts, you probably know them already — but do yourself a huge favor and take a look at the dubious “benefits” of extended office hours:
—A reason you can give for why you are still single.
—An excuse for avoiding emotional issues such as love, friendship and family relationships.
—A setting where normal cravings for human affection and emotional fulfillment are inappropriate and are kept under tight control.
—Enough pressure (ringing phones, urgent reports to write, etc.) to keep your mind fully occupied and (temporarily) unaware of the voids in your life.
—An explanation for a pattern of short-lived romances.
—A place to go when the going gets rough in the outside world.
—A focus for your anxieties.
If you think you may fit the bill but aren’t sure, look for proof positive in your calendar or journal for the past six months. Do you see meetings and seminars, business lunches and breakfasts but almost no dates with friends? Do you notice lots of cancellations of social events?
A gratifying career is one of the best allies possible in your quest for a full and balanced life. I’m well aware that we all have periods of extreme busyness — say the first months of a new job or salary review time — when it makes perfect sense to put on blinders and make work the top priority. I’m not warning you about that kind of busyness; what’s worrisome is the busyness that longs for Sunday to pass quickly so that Monday morning will take its place and all the raw questions that surfaced in quiet times over the weekend can be shoved aside for another week. That is workaholism in its essence, and that’s what I’m here to prevent.
First, say out loud, “I am a workaholic. I have been using my work to hide from important questions in my life.” That’s a beginning. More on being a workaholic coming up soon!