When I discovered the blogosphere, I was blown away by the holistic philosophy of many online experts. The 4 Hour Work Week, Zen Habits and pretty much every other blogger preached a laid back, chilled-out vision of business success.
Sign me up!
I’ve spent my career helping entrepreneurs find more wealth, freedom and sanity so holistic work/life balance is one of my hot topics! If you’re reading this, I’d bet you’re a big believer too.
However, deep down, you think workaholics are awesome.
Don’t deny it. You know that workaholic, that person you look up to because they get so much stuff done?
They’re busy, they’re important, they’re walking around taking calls on their iPhone, tweeting, checking email and being an all round badass.
Our society has glorified workaholics, to the extent that people look up to them and all hope that one day, they’ll be busy, important, overworked, stressed and an inch away from a nervous breakdown.
We look up to workaholics as movers and shakers. Someone who has a lot going on is living on the edge. A workaholic has a cellphone that rings & pings constantly, a twitter stream that’s updated every few minutes and a schedule like a rockstar on tour.
This, along with a sharp suit, a convertible and a downtown apartment – is the modern definition of success.
But we claim it isn’t! We’re holistic right? We want a 4 hour work week, we want to do yoga and work from our laptop in the tropics. Workaholism is sooo 1995!
These days, we really look down, scathingly, on workaholics because:
- They have no work life balance. Their family and health suffer while they kick ass at work.
- They’re stressed out all the time and everyone knows that stress is horrible and evil.
- Deep down, we know that workaholics aren’t achieving significant stuff, since the stress and workaholic-ness gets in the way of working effectively.
Okay. So it sounds like people are pretty confused about workaholics. Do you love them? Do you hate them?
To make things clear, you’re going to have to look deep into the mirror of your unconscious. Cue dramatic, soul searching music.
We idolize workaholics, but only when we are one.
For most smart folks (like the good looking people who read this blog), we don’t look up to other workaholics for the shiny car or busy schedule.
We look down on them. We criticize their bad balance. We stare into the mirror that our unconscious mind is holding in front of us and we don’t like what we see.
Workaholics are crazy, deluded try-hards on the road to a heart-attack.
On the other hand, you know that when it comes to your life…
- Being really busy sends a message that you’re important, doing important stuff and worth looking up to.
- Being stressed out means that family and friends had better treat you nicely or you might flip out, crash and burn.
- Working all hours of the day shows everyone that you’re operating at optimum awesomeness, being all you can be and harvesting every scrap of your potential.
Ah, it all makes sense now.
When we see someone else stressing with no balance, working hard but achieving nothing… they’re a workaholic and it ain’t cool.
When it’s you, it’s a whole other story.
Truth is, workaholism sucks. There are countless psychological studies indicating that beyond about 6 hours of work per day, us humans get damn useless. Most people know this and yet still work themselves crazy.
Why do we still think workaholism is a good thing?
The answer lies in what behavioral psychologists call “Secondary Gain” – the positive benefits of being a workaholic.
What would happen if everyone in your life (people that count) believed that:
- You’re important and, also, you’re doing important work.
- You should be treated nicely and with respect, irregardless.
- You’re fulfilling your potential.
These perceptions, from your loved ones and/or colleagues are your Secondary Gain. When you act like a workaholic, people tend to believe those things about you.
The real question?
What would happen if people believed that good stuff about you, regardless of how many hours you worked? Without even knowing how busy you are?
How would you feel about yourself then?
Individuals driven to workaholism are doing it to achieve Secondary Gain – to improve their perceived value in the eyes of the people they care about.
But really, as I’m sure you’re guessing, it’s not about what other people think.
The hard questions
When did you decide your self worth had something to do with how many hours you put in, or how busy or stressed you are?
What if you could simply do important work and be all you can be – without busyness and workaholism?
Next time you see a workaholic on the street (or in the mirror) ask yourself: “Does this person need to be that busy? Do they merely want to be recognized and respected?”
Behind every negative behavior, even workaholism, is a positive intention. If you know a workaholic (perhaps really well), then you know what they’re really looking for.
More work is not the answer.
Have you ever caught yourself being a workaholic for Secondary Gain?