Dear Dan — can you explain the difference between working hard and workaholism? Too many confuse the two and neglect their families, the Lord's day rest, and the quality of life because they live for their employers and their jobs. So many families and churches are hurting because of the workaholism in the culture. Thanks, John

John, great question.  We do tend to glamorize workaholism in our culture when in fact it is much like any other negative addiction.

Psychologists tell us that the incessant work-related activity is usually a mask for anxiety, low self-esteem, and relationship problems.  It's easy to justify "work" rather than have to deal with those issues.  Typically poor health shows up as well, but again, we never criticize someone for having migraines, backache, or a heart attack.  More likely they just get more of our sympathy for all the work they are doing.

We look down on drug, alcohol, pornography or gambling addictions - but workaholism is called the "respectable addiction."  Someone struggling with this is consumed with the idea that they are "the only one that can do the job right."

Hard workers have some balance in their lives.  They are making deposits of success in physical, family, spiritual, and social areas of their lives.  They can be writing a proposal and thinking about being on the beach.  Workaholics sit on the beach and think about working.

Here are a few steps to avoid workaholism:

  • Set limits on the hours you devote to your job. (40-50 hrs max)
  • Dedicate time to develop your personal relationships.
  • Confront your fears of anxiety, low self-esteem, and relationship problems.
  • Define your worth without referencing what you "do."   Who are you?
  • Engage in vigorous physical activity for 30 minutes at least 4 or 5 times a week.

When we are physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally well balanced, our work performance will improve.  Workaholism will decrease your value in any organization.  And you will be robbing success from other areas in your life.

If you you "don't have time" for success in important areas of your life - then you may be a workaholic.

Originally posted September 27, 2010.

 Dan Miller is today's leading authority and personality on careers and 'Work You LoveTM'. As bestselling author of 48 Days To The Work You Love, and now No More Mondays, Dan reaches over a million people every month in his newsletter, podcast, and blog with the best trends and opportunities in the workplace and small business. For more information, visit http://www.48days.com.