True Wealth: Avoiding the Work Obsession

Most people do not fail because they work too hard. But there are a small number of people who are obsessed with work. They are called workaholics. They alienate their families or lose them and they lose friends too. The workaholic typically either burns out and suffers some major inability to be productive, or jeopardizes both physical and social health until their life is in crisis, illness or both.


It can take a very long time for a workaholic to suffer the ultimate consequences of this obsession however. Many people function this way for years, even decades. Some never learn to function any other way. 


So what is the difference between a hard worker and a workaholic? Is it merely a matter of degree? Kristin Wong wrote an excellent article on this, a self-analysis as it were, on the Get Rich Slowly blog. She provides some common sense clarity to this distinction and why it is important.


I agree with Kristin that there are some clear distinctions between hard workers and workaholics. Being a workaholic is much like an addiction – it shares some of the common traits of addiction.


A hard worker works hard, avoids distractions and time wasting when working and gets the job done. He may work longer hours than others but more importantly he works harder. He takes fewer breaks and fewer days off. He is highly productive. However once he is done with his work day, no matter how long it is, he is done. He goes home and does not obsess over his work. He moves on to his personal life with relative ease. 


A workaholic thrives on work. He cannot disconnect from it. He brings his work with him evenings, weekend, holidays and on vacations. He cannot unplug from it. 


The workaholic gets a kind of “high” or sustained feeling from doing the work. When he leaves the work he feels down and may even experience something akin to withdrawal symptoms. He feels badly. Returning to work activity relieves the bad feeling and restores the euphoric feelings. This person cannot really feel happy or fulfilled unless he is working. It is a genuine obsession. 


The hard worker has no problem unplugging, stopping, resting, and recreating. In fact he enjoys it and looks forward to it. The workaholic sees those things as undesirable obstacles that keep him from his work. 


Working hard is good. It leads to achievement and satisfaction. Being obsessed with work is not good. It distorts one’s life, alienates family and friends and can harm out health. 


You probably know very clearly whether you are either a hard worker or a workaholic. If you feel like you may be a bit of both you may be on a path from hard work to obsession and this would be a good time to step back, assess how you spend your time and how obsessed you really are. 


For another look at workaholism and how it affected one person and what she did about it read Wong’s article, The Cost of Workaholism. Creating True Wealth is about a lot more than creating money. It is also about achieving a reasonable balance between the different kinds of wealth in our lives: family relationships, friends, socialization, community participation, physical health, mental health, and financial security and success. Sacrificing one of those to attain something in the other category is not true wealth, it is a net loss. It is a form of poverty just as real as an empty bank account or wallet. 


Where do you fall on this continuum? Are you a hard worker or a workaholic? Tell us what you think about this. What do you see as the difference?

Wishing you success and prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy
Helping People Learn to Build Wealth

Wishing you Success and Prosperity,

Daniel R. Murphy

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.