It’s ironic that when I worked in the corporate, I was NOT a workaholic. I was proud of myself, for maintaining a strong work-life balance. It wasn’t until I became passionate about something, that my passion became an obsession. And that obsession became workaholism.
I remember that one year, back in the summer (of sixty nine?), I was walking with my friend, along the peripheral of her apartments. Giving her, Deepti, a healthy dose of right and wrong. As good friends should, eh?
Her entire focus throughout the day, was work. It was beginning to effect her physical and mental health. And it made no sense to me because there was much, MUCH more to life.
Then how was it, that 3 years later, I was in the same boat, unable to see anything beyond my work, my blog?
The next irony was that the very thing that I preached about being wary of, spiritual vices, became a hidden one for me too. I became addicted to writing about Spirituality, finding countless ways to bring the truth to readers.
But when did it all begin? And, why?
And more importantly, how can you and I outgrow our workaholism tendencies? Let’s address this together.
How Workaholism Grows
One theory is that wherever you put your attention, your energy begins to harness in that direction.
Seems true when I reflect on it. Because as soon as I start writing, my thoughts jump from one idea to the next. I end up saving draft after draft, of what I’ll share at ‘some point’.
The more I take Julia Cameron’s advice to “show up and just write“, the more my mind runs. It has become a machine of countless creative ideas!
It took me a while (and then another while) to realize that I only have a dedicated reserve of energy every single day. And I was beginning to spend it all on one chakra alone – my sacral.
As the ideas churned out, I felt satiated with the satisfaction of being able to do what I love.
But now, I noticed how little time I had for friends. Or family. Or to make a phone call to my husband without still being on the laptop, half-distracted, doing something.
I felt guilty about it. But not guilty enough to stop.
Those were my defining moments. Workaholism was the choice I was making.
Is Workaholism Even A Real Problem?
When all the energy and time is consumed in one task, there’s little room for anything else. That’s the obvious statement. But think about this.
When we stay in that same zone day after day, month after month, our energy stops moving to the other spaces of our existence.
Our neurons begin to rewire themselves. They get retrained to do something that only serves the space they’re confined to.
So, scarily enough, even if we do make time for friends, family and leisure, our mind still makes it all about work.
You might think that isn’t the case for you – but read these examples.
If you’re a housewife, you’re no longer able to sit and talk when somebody comes over. Because you’re either making your loved ones the next snack with their coffee, or you’re cleaning the aftermath.
As a businessman, you look at even the most irrelevant interactions as a “great sales pitch”. Or as an inspiration, maybe some lesson, that you can take back to work tomorrow.
Or if you work in an IT job, then every argument reminds you of the karmic battle with your boss. And you either classify your relationships as “this relationship is like the one with my boss”, or that “this one is thankfully so different”.
If you’re a social media influencer, artist or writer, you start seeing everything as inspiration for your next post.
Guilty? I know. Me too. But the guilt isn’t enough to make us choose otherwise.
We’ve been in that zone for so long that we find nothing seriously wrong with it. Our trade-offs can’t be that bad, can they? And that’s when we know that workaholism is a real problem.
Everything becomes transactional, or is pushed to adjust itself around work.
So, we forget how to love without checking our phone.
We forget how to eat without talking to someone on the other line.
We forget to be where we are, because we bring our ‘zone’ with us, wherever we go.
It’s not a quick fix. I’ve been aware of my tendencies since over a year, and I’m still working on it. Just like every other karmic impression, this vasana too is tough to overcome.
But there must be a way. And I’m trying to find it. So far, this is what I could come up with based on what has made workaholism a little less predominant in my life.
#1 – The Essentialism Approach
When I first read case studies from CEOs and highly successful businessman that talked about how relieved they were to do less, it felt counterintuitive.
And yet, isn’t that what we’re ultimately aiming for in our spiritual journey too? Less doing, more being?
To stop chasing the external, and to go within?
To uncover our true nature through self-reflection?
Ofcourse, as long as we are alive, we cannot stop action (karma) altogether. But it’s becoming apparent to me through my own problem, that workaholism is just one of many ways in which our karma is becoming futile.
What is essentialism? It’s a specialization for what our modern generation calls minimalism. It’s about doing less. And how can you put essentialism into practice? Here are my tips:
- Have a fixed set of tasks for the day. And DON’T add more to your list before you tick everything off first.
- Use a planner or journal to monitor and maintain your progress. When we are able to visually see how much work we’ve done, we feel contentment and appreciation for how far we’ve come. Versus chasing more.
- Reprioritize your tasks to always do what’s the most essential first. If something isn’t important enough, find a way to get it off your plate. That’s where the term essentialism comes from.
- Spend less time making it perfect, and focus on getting the task done. In other words, strive for quick wins by breaking down each task in many small tasks.
And most importantly, have a planned day off. Make it a habit to unplug, and to NOT always be in the zone!
This not only makes you more effective (because now, you only work 6 days a week), you’re able to refresh and reprioritize your tasks better.
I’ve adopted the concepts of essentialism from the author Greg McKeown, from his work Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
#2 – The Mind-Body-Spirit Approach
I recently talked about the 5 metaphysical layers of our body, and it holds relevance in today’s post.
When we are work-oriented, we are using our physical or gross body, and mental plane or a part of the subtle body, to achieve outcome.
Now, I’m not saying renounce work altogether. But in what ways can you nourish the workspace by nourishing your other layers?
- For instance, if you practice mindful breathing (pranamaya kosha) everyday, you won’t feel so anxious and worked up when work got stressful.
- If you create a small Meditation ritual (vijnanamaya kosha) before work, you’ll have the chance to quiet down and receive more wisdom from within. Versus hitting your head for solutions. You’ll even be able to trust your instincts more and get yourself out of tricky situations faster.
- And if you work with awareness of your 3 gunas (rajas, tamas, satvik), you can change the actions which were of ill-intent to produce action of higher karma.
The purpose is to identify blocks in every layer, every kosha. And then to target those spaces through a simple spiritual practice. See if you’re able to identify your blocks and find a few practices worth incorporating in your life?
Ofcourse, as a workaholic, it can seem difficult to make time for anything else. You might wonder how you’ll bring more on your plate.
Well, remember point #1? If you practice essentialism the right way, you will actually have a lot more time. And many things you can do, that aren’t about work.
#3 – Redirecting Your Energy Into Other Spaces Of Life
While briefly talking about the reality of workaholism, I hinted at energy being restricted in my sacral chakra.
For other people, your reason to work could be different.
You might get a sense of accomplishment and want to consistently chase that feeling (solar plexus). Or you might be money-oriented (root chakra) and be seeking affluence.
No reason is better or worse. They’re all bad, because they’re all in excess.
So my third suggestion is another application of the Chakra System in daily life. Here are some tips you can follow, to push your energy into other spaces of life.
- Identify what chakra gets fueled the most when you’re working. It could be one single Chakra, like some of the examples I listed above. Or you may notice a combination of these and others.
- See what Chakras need your attention, and how you can balance them outside the space of work. This series is a good starting point for tips.
- While at work, be aware of the energetic “high” you’re experiencing and investigate deeper as to why you always seek this high. How? Try journaling or meditation.
Investigate your life through the energy centers of your energy body, and you will find that most of your blocks will automatically free away. Consequently, freeing you and empowering you to live a more balanced life.
#4 – Confront your escapism.
The reason so many senior citizens fall into depression post their retirement, is that they are so used to being useful, it is unbearable for them to not do something anymore.
Of course, this feeling of loneliness, purposelessness and even existential crisis is growingly common to all ages. The reason is simple (though not easy to grasp).
We have been escaping life. We refuse to see it for what is really is. And our best escape route becomes our work.
So, what do we do now? Let’s fix this. Start acknowledging the different feelings and moods you’re suppressing and covering up underneath piles of work.
This resource can help you go deeper into some of these escapist tendencies, and help you tap into your emotional side. Sometimes the solution isn’t in being masculine and logical. It can be found in our softer, emotional side.
This may not be something you’d be able to do at work, if you’re in the corporate. But definitely something you need to tap into, in your personal development.
Workaholism is one form of escapism that so many of us are dealing with. Using the solutions above, I’m hoping you can conclude with me that,
- One, we need to be mindful of what we work on each day,
- Two, we need to challenge our need to work so much by investigating deeper through our subtle body’s blocks,
- And three, we need to redirect our energy to flow across every dimension of life, without letting it revolve around the very thing we’re taking a break from. Work!
You might also enjoy reading 5 Tips to Achieve Work-Life Balance.
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