“What are your
this year?” a girlfriend recently asked me. I thought about the areas of my life I'd like to improve upon and responded, “I'd like to work less. I think I'm a workaholic.”
She paused for a bit then hesitantly said, “…that doesn't sound like a problem…” And indeed, when I'd talked about this with my mom just a week earlier, she said, “That's a
But it's easy to confuse hard work with being a workaholic. We assume an “addiction to work” means being dedicated and thorough, which is good.
But then there's the part where I sneak off to the bathroom during a weekend trip to check my email, and then, for some reason, feel an odd rush.
In Japan, they call it
. And you might already know that it's quite literally
. In the past, I've joked around about being addicted to my work, but I'm starting to realize it may be a more serious problem than I thought, and, most importantly, it's been costing me.
Working hard vs. being a workaholic
piece that got me seriously thinking about this subject. Author Ray Williams details how overworked Americans are. We work an average of 54 hours a week, and the percentage of us working more than 40 hours a week has been steadily increasing. Williams then points to the issue of workaholism:
“A contributing factor to
the problem of workaholism is the prevailing belief in hard work as the route to success,
Bingo - that's me. There's certainly nothing wrong with hard work, but Williams doesn't seem to think a good American work ethic is responsible for these staggering statistics - it's more their
work, which he says stems from the desire to amass
It started out innocently enough, but I've gone from working hard to
to work at all times - the weekend, dinner,
, etc. Working makes me feel safe and good, and it's gotten to the point that my brain equates a simple work task with sheer joy - a high. And that “prevailing belief” has been the premise for my high.
Example. I recently took a weekend trip with some friends. I decided to leave my laptop at home (there's still hope) and enjoy the house we'd rented overlooking a field of wineries. On Sunday, we were sipping mimosas outside when I decided to break out the iPad. Naturally, I looked at work stuff, and suddenly, I felt a wonderful surge. Even then, I knew it was odd. “Work should
be eliciting this sort of feeling,” I thought. Later, I read an article about how the workaholic's body releases Dopamine while working. Sure, it's a natural high,
it starts becoming an issue when work makes you feel better than anything else in your life, including vacation.
If you aren't a workaholic, this probably doesn't make sense to you. But based on the
, I'm not a rarity. Lots of us seem to be addicted to work.
How it started
When I was working a regular office job, there were parameters. I put in 40 hours at a location separate from my home. In exchange, I received a set salary. Sure, I put in some extra hours here and there, but for the most part, I left work at work.