If you read a lot of career advice, you’ve probably heard about the importance of good work-life balance. However, that doesn’t look the same for everyone. After all, if you truly love your job, why not throw yourself into it completely?
That’s not to say that working all the time is harmless. At its worst, being a workaholic can destroy your life. Burn the candle at both ends on the regular, and you could wind up with increased stress, burnout, even health problems.
“Workaholics use work to cope with emotional discomfort and feelings of inadequacy,” writes Brad Klontz Psy.D., CFP, at Psychology Today. “They get adrenaline highs from work binges and then crash from exhaustion, resulting in periods of irritability, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. To cope with these feelings, workaholics then begin another cycle of excessive devotion to work.”
However, not every person who works hard is a workaholic in that sense. What’s typically framed as workaholism can be positive for those who go about their work-lives with the right attitude and approach.
1. Thrive, don’t toil
Working really hard impacts different people in different ways. The ones who get it right are thriving while they work.
“Think of the Leonardo da Vincis who lose sleep while conducting research,” write Colleen O’Neill and Chance Seales at Newsy. “Or a chef who puts in 14-hour days, dreaming up new recipes and creating the perfect plate. They’re not toiling; they can be thriving.”
If you’re working a ton but thoroughly enjoying it, who’s to say it’s a bad thing? It all comes down to the matter of engagement. If your work makes you happy, you’re on the right track.
2. Put a few other eggs in that basket
No matter how much you love and enjoy your job, it is a good idea to have a few other things going on in your life. Having all your eggs in that basket is dangerous. What if something happened to your job? You wouldn’t want your entire life to fall apart because there’s literally nothing else going on for you.
It’s OK to love your job and to spend a lot of time engaged in your professional life. Just make sure it’s not the only thing you have. Check in with friends from time to time. Cultivate a hobby that you enjoy during an occasional evening off. You don’t want to over-identify with any one single aspect of your life. Your job can be a huge part of who you are without it defining you entirely.
3. Don’t neglect your physical health
You only get one physical body in this lifetime. If you want to be able to continue doing the work you love so much, you have to take care of yours.
Problems can arise when professionals become so engaged and wrapped up in their jobs that they postpone doctor’s appointments or neglect regular exercise or healthy eating. If you want to stay on the positive side of workaholism, don’t forget to take care of your physical health. It will allow you to keep doing what you love.
4. Decide What Work-Life Balance Means To You
What’s wrong with the term “work-life balance”? It implies that work and life are separate — and to you, they might not be distinct. creates a mental image that puts “life” on one side of an equation and “work” on another.
It’s not as if your life only happens when you’re not at work. In fact, the two may feel intrinsically tied. And, that’s a good thing. As long as you feel fulfilled and happy, there’s no reason to define yourself as “off balance” just because you work a lot.
5. Don’t expect everyone to understand
It might help to keep in mind that only a small percentage of people are likely to understand the way you are about your work.
Other workaholics will totally get it. (Check out literally any episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.) However, don’t expect that all of your friends or family members will really understand.
People who love you will support you, even if they can’t relate, when they see how much joy your job brings to your life. If the scales start to flip in the other direction, they’ll be correct when they advise you to cut back a little.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you think you might be a workaholic? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.