We’re about to wrap our series on “Creativity: How to Make the Ordinary Extraordinary.” To accompany this final post, please watch this short video, which explains the circumstances at work that get in the way of managers using creativity.
We live in an era that worships a treadmill way of life in the workplace. Professionals who aspire to climb the corporate ladder typically feel compelled to jump on the workaholics bandwagon. While it may start out rather innocently, those who engage in such craziness soon find themselves sucked into a big hole, paying a very big price. Is this YOU?
Initially, there may be valid reasons for taking a huge breath, swallowing hard, and diving into those deep and dark waters. After all, how else can you demonstrate your uncommon commitment to the company of your choice? But soon you discover you cannot come up for air, cannot take a break, cannot wind down even for a day. Now you are addicted to this thing called “work”. Why does this happen?
You seek attention and pity.
You want people to notice those 2:00 AM emails. You hope somebody is concerned about those long hours you keep. You need folks to appreciate your sacrifices. Secretly, you pray that others wonder how many years you can maintain this pace without crumbling. Do you see the focus is on YOU? It’s so much more about YOU than about job expectations. An occasional middle of the night message is fine; a steady flow of them is nuts.
You live to outshine your colleagues.
Not content to meet or exceed your own professional standards, you constantly compete against colleagues, especially those you dislike. You want to prove to the boss that YOU are the marathon runner, not Tom or Sue. YOU are the one who will endure, suffer, and sell your soul to the organization. YOU are the person who is superhuman, who rarely eats or sleeps. Again, this view is largely about YOU. How much do you actually win by shoving Tom or Sue into the shadows?
You strive to convince yourself that YOU are exceptional.
For some reason you have above average ego needs that never get satiated. Maybe even some need to self-aggrandize. An ongoing anxiety whispers doubts into your ear from morning to night. Perhaps your craving to be recognized as better than others stems from a deep seated feeling of inadequacy. It’s worth considering. You don’t need to be unique; just be your best self. Develop your talents in ways that truly serve others, and that alone allows you to make a positive mark in the world.
You desperately need to dodge pain.
You’re in the middle of a messy divorce. Or maybe you’ve got a teen in trouble. Your mother has cancer. You fight daily with your partner. Your abusive childhood still drags you down. Ring any bells? Working around the clock provides a convenient escape from acute or chronic sadness, frustration, or fear. Working until you can’t think straight numbs the pain. If this describes YOU, don’t delude yourself into believing you’ve got the company’s best interests at heart. Face the fact that you’re using company business as an excuse for avoiding nasty family issues. In the process, you end up compounding your already thumping headache.
Regardless of why you run the treadmill, you have lots to lose. Whether short term or long term, these losses are serious.
You lose clarity about your personal values and priorities.
Everything becomes cloudy when your hours are consumed only by work. If you once understood what mattered most to you, that clarity is now gone. The deception lies in thinking that you really are on target by doing your job nonstop. All of this gets very seductive if you aren’t careful. When you no longer know what you value, you can’t set priorities. When you aren’t sure of your priorities, you just fill up the time doing things that may not serve you. Life becomes futile without a road map.
You forfeit quality relationships with family and friends.
Workaholism kills relationships. How much time do you invest in your spouse, significant other, children, and friends? When you are with them, are you present physically but not emotionally? Do you find yourself reflecting on problems at work instead of immersing yourself in their company? Or maybe you hardly show up at all, often missing your son’s baseball games and your wife’s birthday celebrations. Do you see yourself here? If your wife dies in a car accident, count on being consumed by regret. You can’t rewind the clock. What is done is done. However, today you can choose something different. What will that be?
You give up control of your calendar.
What determines YOUR calendar? Obligations? Little tasks? Time wasters? Meetings that have nothing to do with the big picture? Time becomes a burden rather than a blessing when YOU fail to take charge of your 24/7. Today, everybody’s mantra seems to be: “I’m so busy.” Busy doing what? Do you honestly know what you are doing and why you are doing it? Or are you floating along like a leaf in the breeze, with no destination in mind?
You sacrifice your health.
Treadmill stress increases your chances of a heart attack, stroke, and/or sudden cardiac arrest. It impacts your sleep, digestion, memory, and ability to focus. It makes you vulnerable to colds and sore throats. Taking little or no time to relax and refresh has notable consequences. Is this the kind of existence you’ve designed for yourself? If so, you may be cutting years off your life. Even if you don’t shorten its length, you may reduce the quality. Why pay the price of chronic physical illness that robs you of zest and joy? Why turn into a mentally compromised zombie? Whatever happens to you, know that you lose.
Keep in mind that your boss won’t thank you someday for choosing the life of a partially functioning invalid. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your goals and direction.