Change your workaholic behaviour with Peter’s story

Today I want to share with you a little story about one of my very good friends. Let’s call him Peter. Peter is the owner of a successful growing business. Peter hadn’t taken a proper break in many many years. He took his laptop with him when he went on holiday with his family.  While there, he checked in on his emails and the office at least once a day to ensure that everything was running smoothly.  His company’s staff turnover is very low.  The vast majority of his employees are high-performing. They are extremely competent and experienced dream team members who have been working for him for many years. Peter’s tale has a happy ending.  I am hoping it will help you change your workaholic behaviour.

Getting off the hamster wheel

Peter and I had various discussions over an extended period about his desire to let go of the reigns a bit more. We’d discussed the importance of him taking a break. As with most entrepreneurs, Peter’s journey originally started with a vision of creating a life worth living for himself and his family. However, he became so entangled in the day-to-day operations of his own business that he couldn’t seem to free himself even for a single day.

Although being involved is not necessarily a bad thing, Peter’s position was very risky from a business sustainability and business continuity perspective. It had reached a point where it was limiting his business’ ability to grow.

Challenging the status quo

I had a telephone discussion with Peter only days before his next attempt at an annual holiday away with his family. But like so many times before, when I asked Peter whether the laptop would stay at home this time around, his answer was no.

Peter was quite taken aback when I told him that he was being incredibly rude. I explained he had such wonderful team members. If I were them, I would feel quite insulted if after so many years he still felt the need to check up on me every day. As long as they knew how to get hold of him in the event of a crisis, I did not understand on what basis he still didn’t trust them to get the job done.

Not to mention how discarded his family must feel. After all the support, understanding and sacrifice they have made throughout the entire year.  He had continued to work long and hard on his business. On a level, they knew they were still not considered worthy enough to receive his undivided attention.  Not even for this short period once a year. My views were met with a very long silence and eventually a soft-spoken admission that he had never considered such a perspective.

The evidence is clear

Over the years I have quoted many studies on burnout and the positive impact a well-balanced lifestyle can have on your productivity. But these never appeared to even make the slightest impact on Peter’s apparent self-image of invincibility.

For the first time, I got Peter to open his eyes to the potential impact his actions were having on those around him. It became the very first holiday (of many) that the laptop was left off throughout his entire annual break.

You have to want to change

Peter is not the first entrepreneur I have come across who faces these challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity that we have had to assist many of them in making a positive change. The very first step is always that they need to want to make a change. If Peter’s story sounds way too familiar, then I challenge you to start taking action. Make the necessary changes to reinstate balance in your life and get assistance if need be. If not for yourself, do it for your family and your team.

Breaking Free from Workaholism

In today’s fast-paced world, the line between dedication and workaholism often blurs. Through Peter’s transformative journey, let’s explore how to break free from workaholic tendencies and embrace a more balanced life.

Understanding the Workaholic Mindset: The Inner Workings of Overachievers

Workaholics, like Peter, often possess a relentless drive to excel. This mindset, while admirable, can lead to an unhealthy obsession with work. They are typically perfectionists, fearing failure and constantly striving for validation through their achievements. Research by Malissa A. Clark in her 2016 study “Workaholism: It’s not just long hours on the job” highlights that workaholics often work not only hard but also compulsively. They are driven by internal pressure, not just external demands or enjoyment of their job.

Avoidance Tactics: What Workaholics Are Running From

Many workaholics use their job as a shield, avoiding personal issues or uncomfortable emotions. For Peter, immersing himself in work was a way to dodge confronting family needs or personal insecurities. This avoidance can create a vicious cycle, where work becomes both the problem and the solution. A study by Robinson (2014) in “Chained to the Desk” suggests that workaholism is often a coping mechanism for anxiety, low self-esteem, or intimacy issues.

Behavioural Patterns: The Telltale Signs of a Workaholic

Workaholics exhibit distinct behaviours: neglecting personal relationships, feeling restless when not working, and struggling to delegate tasks. Peter’s inability to disconnect, even on vacation, is a classic example. These tendencies often stem from a deep-seated need for control and fear of letting go. According to a study by Andreassen et al. (2014), workaholics often display traits like being overly concerned about work, being driven by perfectionism, and having a strong need for control.

The Workaholic Personality: Driven, Dedicated, and at Risk

Workaholics often have high-achieving, Type A personalities. They are ambitious, competitive, and highly organized. However, this drive can lead to stress, burnout, and health issues. Peter’s story is a cautionary tale of how relentless work can overshadow personal well-being. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that workaholics are more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders like ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression.

The Neuroscience of Workaholism: Understanding the Brain’s Role

Neuroscientific research has begun to shed light on the brain mechanisms underlying workaholism. Studies suggest that workaholism may be linked to the brain’s reward systems, particularly involving the neurotransmitter dopamine. This could explain the ‘high’ workaholics feel when achieving work goals, similar to the effects seen in addictive behaviours. A study by Albrecht et al. (2019) in “The neuroscience of workaholism” suggests that workaholics may have an overactive reward system, leading to a constant pursuit of work-related rewards.

Transforming Workaholic Behaviors: Practical Steps to a Balanced Life

  1. Create a Vision of a Balanced Life: Peter’s first step was envisioning a life where work and personal time coexist harmoniously. This vision acts as a guiding star, helping to realign priorities.
  2. Recognize Habitual Work Patterns: Acknowledging these patterns is crucial. Peter had to see how his constant working was more of a habit than a necessity. This self-awareness is the first step towards change.
  3. Understand the Impact on Others: Realizing how his actions affected his family and staff was a wake-up call for Peter. This understanding can often be the catalyst for change, as it was for Peter.
  4. Realign with Personal Values: Peter valued his family, but his actions said otherwise. Recognizing this misalignment spurred his change. This realignment is often necessary for meaningful and lasting change.
  5. Commit to Change: True transformation comes from within. Peter’s decision to leave his laptop behind was a significant first step. This commitment is essential for overcoming workaholic tendencies.

Embracing Change for a Fuller Life

Peter’s story is a powerful reminder that change is possible. By understanding the mindset, behaviours, and personality traits of workaholics, and considering the neuroscience behind it, we can start making conscious choices towards a more balanced and fulfilling life. Remember, it’s not just about working less; it’s about living more.

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