“Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to”
Rob Bell

I’ve been super busy again over the past week and with everything I’ve had going on it got me thinking a lot about work ethic and being someone who loves working hard vs work addiction and someone who struggles to not be working and I think there’s an important distinction between the two which we’ll dive into further in the episode. It also got me thinking about my own work ethic and the place that I’m coming from when I approach my work. I’ve taken on quite a lot with my motivations for building the Wellbeing Weekly platform considering I’m also working full time in my other product based business – so I’m pretty stretched as it stands but I think that can be where your work ethic comes in and whether you have the willingness to show up and put in the work and go above and beyond to get things done.

Before I jump in, I wanted to announce that I have launched a four part FREE video series called Master Your Mindset Bootcamp and it covers four different topics regarding your mindset and how you can start to break free from limitations that may be holding you back and begin to shift into new mindset perspectives that propel you towards your goals and dreams – so I’ve popped the link to that in the show notes of this episode so you can click through to that and secure your spot. It’s officially launching on Monday 30th July 2018, so make sure you put your name down before then so that you receive all of the videos in your email once it launches! I’ve been working on this for a while now so I’m really excited to get it out into the world and support you to begin mastering your mindset  – pretty much THE most important thing that dictates your business and life.

Master Your Mindset Bootcamp

This topic also got me thinking about my own attitude towards work in the past. When I was growing up, my dad had and still has his own business so I grew up understanding the rewards and pressures of running your own business but also that it wasn’t something that was out of reach for me. In Australia you need to be 14 & 9 months before you can begin paid employment – I’m not sure if that’s changed over the past 15 years but that’s what it was for me. Literally as soon as the clock ticked over on that age I went and got myself a job. I worked at local craft shop and I picked up so many valuable skills there. I learnt how to serve, I learnt how to teach classes, I learnt how to manage inventory software, I learnt about stock takes and inventory management, I learnt about tax and business requirement and so on. I would work here three days a week after school right up until my final year of schooling. When I started my psychology degree at university, I had a little more time and so I took on more jobs and worked a second job in retail and a third job as a nanny.

So, I basically juggled three jobs and a psychology degree and some sense of a social life. It was full on, but I didn’t really think about it like that because I was just happy doing all of these things. Once I completed my Honours degree in psychology it was time for me to get a job related to my qualifications and I stepped out in the corporate world when I was still only about 21. Since then, I’ve worked across different industries as a case management consultant and Counsellor and learnt a great deal about working with people and supporting people to achieve positive outcomes in their lives. While I was working full time, I also had the desire to create a business for myself. I created a couple of side hustles where I sold things on Etsy that did quite well, and around four years ago my partner and I started the business that I currently work on full time now. It was around late 2017 that I decided I was going to move forward with my long time dream of coaching and supporting women with their wellbeing and mindset and so I got the wheels in motion. So you can see from that little overview that I’ve always got a number of things on the go. I’m multi-passionate and love being creative so I’m naturally drawn to creating and building businesses and also building on my own growth.

But what does all this matter? Well, reflecting on what I’ve just told you, you may think that I’m someone with a strong work ethic who is willing to put in countless hours to achieve my goals and serve others with my work, however you could also think that I’m completely overdoing it and define myself off being busy and that without work I’m unsure of what I really have to offer as a person. And this is the distinction between work ethic and work addiction. And it suuuuch a fine line between the two because really, what you see on the outside can look exactly the same. A hardworking, driven, passionate person who will arrive early and stay late, might be up until midnight planning things, is usually switched on and in work mode, and is achieving success based on the effort and time they put in. But the difference between the two is more on the inside.

The thoughts, emotions and therefore actions that are attached to working are what disingiush the two – and the interesting thing here is that many people may not even know that they have fallen into work addiction.

In regards to my own work history, I know in the past there would have been periods where I did define myself around work and success and that I liked the thought that people could be proud of me and my achievements. But, as I learnt more about psychology and about myself – and especially after counselling clients with drug and alcohol addictions, I learnt that there were times where I would use work to distract myself from other things in my life or even keep myself so busy that I “didn’t have time” to think about how I was feeling or what was going on around me, and this is where being a workaholic can become an issue. So I’ve done a lot around building my awareness around this over the years and have been able to disconnect work defining my worth, or my success or my identity and to allow myself space to fully feel and process what may happen in my life and move through it rather than turn to being busy to patch it up. And we’ll talk abit more later about strategies I’ve used that may help you – but primarily its about defining your identity and believing in your worth without work and also giving yourself space to experience life without always having work to do. But we’ll jump into that in more depth shortly.

Firstly I want to look at work ethic. So work ethic is essentially your belief around hard work being worthy of reward. Generally this hard work involves significant input of time, effort and possibly money – but I’d like to highlight that I also think that this can be replaced with smart work, where you may not put in as much time or effort but you’re working smarter which leads to the same sense of reward and is still based on the same level of desire to achieve those rewards. And this so called reward can be externally motivated such as more money, more praise at work, more promotions, more clients and so on, or it could be internally motivated such as building your own sense of worth, skill, connection, confidence and so on. It could also be a combination of these depending on what you value and what’s important to you.

So let’s say you’ve decided to start your own business and to initially get it up and running with paid clients, involves quite a lot of time and effort of yours to begin with. If you’re still working a corporate job, you may spend all of your spare time and weekends working on your new business. You may stay up until 3am some nights to try and get ahead on tasks that need to be done. You might work 8 hours during the day, then come home and work another 5 hours on your business. Or if this is your only job, you might find yourself spending up to 12 hours at a time working on developing your business and attracting your audience. And why do you put in this significant effort? Because you’re motivated by your work ethic and the potential rewards that you know will come from putting in the work that others don’t.

What’s interesting is that many people believe that they have a strong work ethic and this is most likely because it’s something that’s really valued in the work force and a key winner in job interviews. But, often people who think they have a strong work ethic may not really when it comes down to getting things done. They may show up late, take their time on tasks, have limited communication with their clients and so on – so their actions in their role indicate that while they may enjoy their work and like their role, they’re not necessarily willing to go above and beyond like others might.

Its also important to note that I’m not suggesting that work ethic means to grind yourself into the ground and push beyond your limits until you reach burnout. It is perfectly possible for people to have a strong work ethic and have fantastic balance in their lives, where they still have down time and relax, they still spend time on their own wellbeing, they spend time with family and friends. But when they’re at work and on work time, they’re putting in optimum effort, working smartly and getting things done so they can move closer to those rewards that they value.

Master Your Mindset Bootcamp
Where the burnout side of things CAN creep it’s way in, is when your working begins to border on work addiction or if people indicate that you’re a workaholic. Where working becomes so much of a part of your life and identity that you DON’T have that balance I just talked about, when you are sacrificing all of your family time for work, where you avoid social engagements to work instead, where you neglect your wellbeing or exercise because of work or perhaps even stay back at the office or work from home while you’re family or partner are relaxing watching a movie.

I completely appreciate that building a business does take time and effort, trust me I’ve been there where 12-14 hour days were my norm, but there’s an element of balance that needs to come with this and an insight into how you’re personally relating to your work. I want to cover some of the signs that you could be moving into work addiction, but before I do I want to talk a little bit about addiction in general, because I don’t think many people understanding that work can be an addiction in its own way.

So when we talk about addiction we’re looking at someone having a dependency on something that essentially provides them with some sort of reward. Often we know the negative impacts of someone with an addiction, however we often don’t consider the positive impacts. When someone is addicted to something, it is always offering them something positive – whether they realise that or not. Often, it is a sense of escape from something in their lives and usually an uncomfortable thought or belief and associated feeling. For example, someone with alcohol addiction, may have recently lost their job and are unable to find new employment. As a result, they begin to believe they are unemployable, unworthy of finding work, unskilled and subsequently experience emotions such as unworthiness, loss, anger or sadness. They then turn to alcohol to numb and escape from these uncomfortable internal experiences and which provides them with a positive association to alcohol and thus they continue to drink. In this example I’ve used alcohol as the “thing” but this could really be replaced with anything such as drugs, food, pornography, television, gaming, shopping, gambling or – working. We don’t always see somethings as addictions because they often have a more positive connotation attached such as working or watching tv, but when these actions are used as a way to escape from uncomfortable thoughts or emotions through distraction and avoidance, then they can enter the realm of being an addiction.

 

In the context of working, and example could be someone who is having marriage problems and they decide to work on their laptop through dinner each night or stay glued to their emails as a way to avoid uncomfortable interactions or discussions with their partner.

So I’ll give a few more indicators of where working can angle more into being a workaholic and its actually really interesting because many of these actions are consistent across addiction, its just the “substance” that changes for different people: These are adapted from The Bergen Work Addiction Scale was developed by researchers from the University of Bergen

  1. You try to find additional time to work, such as cancelling plans or family activities to spend more time working.
  2. You work longer than you anticipated, often without realising. So perhaps you promised your partner you would duck into the office for an hour but end up spending the day there or you say you’ll do some emails quickly after dinner but end up spending three hours on your computer.
  3. You find that work or being busy provides a pleasant escape from uncomfortable emotions or thoughts. Or you find that when you’re working or busy, you feel content and void of any negative internal experiences.
  4. Your friends or family have commented on the amount of time you spend working and have asked you to change your working patterns or cut down on actions where you’re working – such as not using your phone at the dinner table, not working after 7pm, spending more time with your children/partner/family/friends, not attending the office on a weekend or might even begin to outright say that you’re addicted to your work or are a workaholic.
  5. Periods of down time or space create anxiety or stress in you. You generally work up until you need to be somewhere and often consider the work that you could be getting done if you weren’t at this event, activity, relaxing with someone.
  6. You begin to let go of hobbies or activities that you once enjoyed at the expense of work. You may have stopped exercising, or doing fortnightly brunch with your friends, or reading a book over the weekend so that you can use that time for working.
  7. Your health is becoming at risk because of your work. You might forget to eat meals, exercise, sleep properly or have appropriate rest breaks and down time, which begin to impact your energy, nourishment and rejuvenation.
  8. You feel a lack of control over your engagement in work activities and find that work tasks preoccupy your thoughts.

 

Tips to shift out of work addiction

  1. Recognise that you may be addicted to your work
  2. Define your identity beyond your work role and business
  3. Practise self love
  4. Define your values beyond work
  5. Meditation & Mindfulness
  6. Become aware of the thoughts & emotions you’re avoiding or distracting from and work through these by journaling, seeking professional support
  7. Build your coping skills and resilience
  8. Create boundaries with your work schedule and gradually reduce the time you spend working with a structured plan
  9. Commit to hobbies / activities that you’ve been neglecting with a minimum level and gradually build – 15 mins exercise, brunch once a month etc

To hear me dive deeper into the above tips, click here to tune in to my podcast episode on the topic

So that covers how work ethic and work addiction differ from each other, what some of the signs of work addiction are and how you can begin to shift out of your attachment to working and achieve more balance in your life before you head into burnout territory or experience any other potential implications.

I hope you’ve found that helpful and helps you to think a little more deeply about your relationship with your work.

You can find my podcast by searching ‘Wellbeing Weekly’ in your podcast app or heading to iTunes by clicking here

 

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