“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same things as making a life.” ~Maya Angelou
My friend Nick and I were talking one day about our plans for after graduation. We talked about marriage and whether our religious beliefs would factor into our weddings when the time came, or whether our mothers would just run the whole show. Then the question came that grounded me.
“Do you think that you’ll be a workaholic?” Nick asked.
I chuckled and said I could practically guarantee it, as workaholism has always been part of my identity—and a proud part, at that. Nick then followed my response by saying, “You know, it’s worse than alcoholism.”
After laughing off the comment, he continued to make his point. He expressed how he had seen it destroy families and lives. He finished with how it can even be spirit crushing, as the individual loses their sense of passion and uses work to fuel their addiction.
Although I firmly believe that Nick was misguided in the brevity of his statement, he did have a point.
Being a workaholic is a problem. It can destroy relationships with those you care about, as well as your body through health issues that accompany stress and overuse, and even your spirit through soul crushing tasks and long hours.
What seemed like an offhand comment really struck me, and at a good time too, as I was graduating from college and about to start my first adult job.
I took a little time after Nick left that evening to reflect on my relationship with work and how it had almost become synonymous with my identity over the years.
In the culture of the United States, it almost seems like what we do is actually who we are. After all, there are many jobs that you can’t turn off, such as being a doctor or a mother—jobs where you’re always on-call.
And tied with that, so many people have a burning desire to be successful and good at what they do, which seems to involve throwing yourself into your occupation full force.
When people strive for success in what they do and do not strive for balance, workaholics are created.
My number one goal has always been to be successful, which I defined as having a steady, challenging, well-paying career. Although my family and friends are important to me, I often put them on the backburner, putting my career and goals ahead of them.
Reflecting back on Nick’s comment, I have begun to realize how much work has hindered my close relationships. And it has slowly but surely crushed the spirit of those close to me that have workaholic traits. Sometimes they seem so worn down that they appear to have lost their identity and passion.
I now know that I don’t want to be a shell of a person. I know that there are more important things and that I want to live a full and balanced life, with varied interests and strong relationships. This epiphany-inspired reflection could not have come at a better time in my life.
As I get ready to start my first real job in the upcoming weeks, I will remember these four things, which I believe anyone can do to have a more fulfilling and balanced life.
1. Know yourself and your limitations.
I know myself and I know that work will be a large part of my life because it is a core part of who I am. However, I will remember that, although I want to be successful, I need to maintain balance my life. This means that I will go in and stay for my shift and work hard, but I will not burn myself out.
I will understand that my health and wellness are an important part of who I am and that, without proper health and wellness, I cannot act as the best employee that I can be.
2. Focus on overall healthy decisions, mentally and physically.
In the upcoming weeks as I start my new position, I will focus on health and wellness outside of work. I’ll make overall healthy decisions, not solely working out, but taking the time to relax and re-energize at the end of a long day.
I will also focus on my mental and relational health by making time for my family and friends and by sharing fun activities with them that help balance me out.
3. Foster high priority relationships.
As I get older and progress further in my career, I, like many others, will become constrained by time and resources. In order to maintain the delicate work-life balance that I am striving for, I will take time to foster relationships that matter to build a support system.
When the time comes and you need a helping hand, your support network will be strong enough to get you through the tough times.
4. Remember that who you are, not what you do, makes you special.
Just being me makes me special, and a valuable asset to both my family and friends. Who I am also plays into my career, as it designates my goals and achievements, but I am a multidimensional person with thoughts, beliefs, and interests outside of my employment status, and so are you.
The key to making all of these four thoughts and reflections a reality is balance. I now know that I need to make time to not only work, but to play as well. I need to know myself, and how I handle relationships, and make them a priority.
These tips will help guide my life and decisions, as I hope they will guide yours, as well.
Workaholic image via Shutterstock