Are you worried you could be a workaholic? A junkie for the rush of what accomplishment feels like? Just trying to get that one next raise or promotion to put you ahead? Or maybe just holding on for dear life at keeping the job you have when so many people are still looking for one? Do you feel like it is sucking the life out of your very being? Maybe you want to change, know you should change, but don’t really know where to begin. It can be difficult once you’ve worked your way into a certain role at a company. It can feel like you can’t change the rules now because certain people expect certain things from you and you want to meet all their expectations. You want and need to retain your status as a very hard worker for your security, and maybe even your self esteem.
Here’s the truth though: it’s a vicious never-ending cycle. The best performers are given the majority of the work. They accomplish that work because they are driven and competent. So what happens? They are given even more work. You will never catch up. That taunting voice that repeats over and over again “If you just come in and work on the weekend again or just work nights for this week again you will finally catch up” is lying to you.
There is no such thing as getting caught up for good. The items you cross off your list will create space for new items to fill in. The only way to claim the time you need to be healthy and whole is to take action and set your own boundaries. Only you can set the boundaries for what you will and won’t tolerate in your life and how much time you will devote to work. Your work has to be integrated with more important things like family, friends, self, and room for your soul to breathe. If you want to feel inspired, alive, and energized, you have to give yourself space to feel something, anything at all. You can’t feel anything resonate with you if you are numb, running from place to place, and focused on only one thing as though you are playing the arcade version of the Whack-a-Mole game.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a great work ethic. I am of a generation and area of the country where a very high value is placed on work ethic. You do have to work hard to succeed in life, there are no handouts, and teamwork is a form of loyalty lived out loud. But you need to ask yourself “What am I working for? What is the purpose of this?” Are you working for a paycheck and superficial empty recognition that quickly fades for you? Or does your work actually bring you true inner joy? And is this work the legacy you want to leave behind as your footprint?
If you’re questioning whether or not you are placing too much emphasis on work and not enough on your true life joys such as your relationships, I ask you to do one simple exercise. It may bring home a new perspective.
I am a huge believer that all the lessons we need to become the person we are destined to be are around us every day, dancing around us, practically shouting at us, ”Stop and notice me!” “You’re making this harder than it has to be!” as we hustle around and bust our butts doing “life.” All we have to do is slow down, open up, and the universe will step in to reveal what it is we need to grow, right now, right here, if we are willing to receive it.
Here is your assignment. Drive to your local airport. Park in the ramp. Leave your phone in the car. Enter the airport. Grab a cup of coffee, smoothie or soda … whatever. Make your way to the waiting area for unticketed passengers. The area where families wait for loved ones, where children and wives greet soldiers, where grandparents greet grand babies, where old college friends reunite. The area of Welcome Home signs and flowers, hugs and tears, and a few squeals of sheer joy. Have a seat and simply people watch for however much time you have to give this. Take your time and let the scenes speak to you. Watch the anticipation before the reunion. Watch those waiting. Watch the emotions and hugs pour out of all these strangers around you. Watch them walk off arm-in-arm to go enjoy each other. Feel the atmosphere of real emotion, joy, and a drop in their stress and anxiety. This is not just a lesson for your brain to process, but for your heart and soul to feel the weight of. Don’t just imagine this scene; give this experience to yourself; actually do it, feel it. For an hour’s worth of your time, let the world speak to you.
For me, when I watch these reunions, it quickly snaps me to the attention of what is really important and where I want to spend time and energy in my life. It reminds me of what brings me joy and what I wish my footprint to be. Yes, we all need income to provide for our families, and jobs are very important, but at what cost? Make sure you’re not paying more than it’s worth to you in the end because we can’t go back. Ask yourself if there is a different way to put the important stuff at the priority level that really feels right for you. What can you do differently today to set new boundaries? Starting today, take a small step to make the footprint of your life what you want it to be.
I hope you take this small leap and give yourself the gift of this experience. I hope it has an impact on you and brings you some unexpected perspective.