How to Stop Working Yourself to Death

Ever thought about why you put so much time and effort into work? It may have something to do with the degree to which your work defines you. It is one of the only things you do that really matters. You get attention from your work. You get paid. You get to travel, dine and play. You get appreciated for doing a good job and gain confidence and self-worth from it. You feel important if you have some authority and power.   

With all of these material and non-material benefits, no wonder so many people pour a lot of their time and energy into work.  The main problem is work can never really fulfil your emotional needs.  Even the nice things work gives you are fleeting and conditional.  For example, the attention you get in your role would drop significantly the moment you leave that role.  The people at work are paying you attention because they need something from you to reach their goals. The reason why so many executives and small business owners find retirement really difficult is that they turn from being somebody to almost a nobody in an instant. Playing golf and spending time with the grandkids doesn’t quite match the excitement of doing well in business

As a solution, many executives and business owners say they will never retire because they can't imagine not having the perks that come with the job. Making money is so validating. You feel like you are at the top of the tree of life, with everyone else looking up at you, wanting what you have got. You are proud of your achievements.  But wait….maybe this life has a hold over you, control over you in some way.

I recently heard a different take on a popular saying -  money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you a huge boat that can park right beside it. True it must be fun having a huge boat, but doesn’t everything come at a price? I don't mean the price of maintaining the huge boat, mooring it, and paying crew and catering every time you want to use it. Some people can well afford this.  No, I’m talking about the accumulation of things and the effect of that accumulation on the owner.   Anything you have will take time to accumulate, time to maintain, and time to use. That takes you away from spending time on other things of importance, and it can create a lot of stress.

And it's not just things that get accumulated and can have a hold over you. A high achiever's resume can be full of published articles, speaking engagements, board positions, committee work, and so on, that all take up valuable time. When you are at the top of your game, lots of people want a piece of you. And it's so hard to decline the offers when you are tempted by more status, power, attention and hero worship.  The desire for these things can be addictive. It's easy for your diary to not be in your control as you search for more and more.

All of this can be taken away from you in an instant, through merger, acquisition, redundancy, retrenchment, business closure, natural disaster, an accident or illness. What would you have left?  What is your plan B, just in case your workplace implodes?

If you are like the many high achievers who are uncomfortable with having time to think because for years you have been going full steam ahead in your quest for success, then sitting down with me may be the last thing on your list. Time to think might make you question how you have spent your time, and whether it was worth it. Most people try hard to avoid this personal confrontation with themselves because it can be extremely painful and some would say not worth it because it can't be changed anyway.  

Your Ego is in the Way

All problems stem from your ego.  Your ego can be quite fragile.  It likes to get what it wants.  It believes it always gets what it wants.  It also believes it is right, even in the face of contrary evidence.   “I'm fine, never been better,” says the workaholic who recently suffered his first heart attack.  That’s your ego talking.  It believes you can work hard day in, day out, and cope fine whilst we mere mortals need our eight hours of sleep and three meals per day.

When in superior mode, your ego will keep telling you how good you are, and how important your work is.  And the little brat inside you who thinks he/she can get away with almost anything. 

How is change possible?

You need to be aware of the brat.   And you may need help reducing the brat’s power over you.   That’s where coaching psychology can make a real difference.  By helping you shift your narrative from the extremes of superiority and inferiority, you find your own inner peace, which then opens up a whole new world of potential and possibility.

What else could you change?

1. Consider reducing your corporate hours to develop your identity outside of work.

2. Consider what pursuits or hobbies you could take up.  Pursuing creative interests is a common urge for corporate people.  

3. Cultivate your relationships and make new friends outside of corporate life

4. Clarify what really matters to you, so that you have a good enough reason to change.

At Charleston Consulting, we offer a variety of services that can help your psychological needs. If you would like to learn more, please check out the Thrive Learning Program course which can help to improve your quality of life.

Feel free to send me an email and tell me what you think. I am happy to have a chat with you about how coaching psychology could help.

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