Once Upon a Workaholic

Once, in the peak of my workaholism, it took a car crash to shake me out of it.

Five years on, proudly in recovery from that peculiarly revered state, the interventions are somewhat less severe. The learning cycles are a lot more rapid. I’ve only spent the better part of the past week in bed with a nasty cold which reduced my ability to engage with anything resembling work by about eighty percent. This brief illness seemed specifically designed to give me a rest from my busy schedule.

Once again, my infinitely wise body reminded me that no matter how much I love my work and study, there is a limit to what I can take on. I’m actually grateful for getting sick – because each time it helps me recognise the lesson a little faster.

These friendly little interventions force me to slow down, take stock, and integrate some of the things I know to be true, but don’t always find easy to put in practice:

  • Rest and play are equally important as work

  • Time spent reflecting on what’s most important means less time mindlessly churning through tasks

  • Endless busyness often equates to avoidance of something you don’t want to face.

In the Western world, we’re conditioned into believing that success means doing more, being more, achieving, pushing, striving, driving. Resting, playing and simply be-ing for the sake of it are immensely undervalued. Even the holidays we take provide a sense of accomplishment; as we tick the destinations off our must-do lists. Productivity, in all spheres of life, is Queen*.

It’s my belief that it’s neither possible, nor desirable, to overdo it on the work front indefinitely. Sooner or later, all workaholics have a figurative ‘car crash’ which wakes them from their slumber. And particularly when the subject of that workaholism is not aligned with your best life. I am grateful that mine came so early on in life.

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I’m slowly but surely learning that we humans, who more resemble be-ings than machines, cannot expect to sustain ourselves when life looks more like:









Knowing you, you’ve stumbled across this post in the midst of a million other things. Your mind is running at a pace of knots, and there’s no shortage of stuff trying to grab your attention. You’re reading this quickly, and in the back (or forefront) of your mind is a long list of tasks to get to next.

If you want to speed up your figurative car crash, and get busy be-ing more and working less, why not sacrifice all those to-dos for a minute and give yourself the gift of a couple of minutes’ reflection? Your to-do list will still be there tomorrow anyway.

Two things to ponder:

  • How would your 90 year old self measure a successful life? What does she or he look like, contemplating this question whilst perhaps staring out the window or enjoying a game of bridge with their rest home buddies. What would they advise you? Is all this work and busyness really worth it?

  • What are you avoiding, by working so much? Take even 60 seconds to ponder this question... and just notice what bubbles up. I challenge you to take it one step further and spend a few minutes every day over the next week pondering this question.

* Some might say King.