A reader, Diana, wrote to say that she has a really good job and what many would call career success. And this didn’t happen by accident. She worked hard to get to this point. But what she wanted me to know most is: “All I do is work!”
They say we reap what we sow. But is it fair that lots of work only wins you the opportunity to do even more work? Is work-life balance just a myth for successful people?
Does “All I do is work” sound like you?
As workdays start blending into each other, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason we work in the first place. For many, of course, the money is an important factor. After all, eating and paying rent are not mere whims.
But a lot of us also get caught up in the need to succeed. Whatever that might mean to each of us. And that’s where we get to the question, exactly what is success? If you work long days and bring the work home with you, who actually owns your days?
In a way, if your job’s demands effectively take control of your day, you’ve lost some personal freedom in the bargain. And, on a personal level, does an impressive title and huge paycheck really make up for that loss of freedom?
Well, isn’t hard work just the price of success?
The reason I’m writing this is to help you think about things. If “all I do is work” is part of your definition of real success, then perhaps you’re making a trade-off you’re ok with. Or you might think this is just the way it is. And so you heave a big sigh, while trying to keep your head above water.
Then again, maybe some other thoughts are also nagging at you. Like “Is this really the way I want my life to be?” And “Do I even have a choice considering all my expenses?” Sometimes it feels like we’re trapped by our past choices. And that just adds to the inertia.
But hard work is not the same as being trapped. You always have choices. The first step in change is awareness. So maybe you want to ask yourself whether “all I do is work” describes the way you feel most days. And whether you would change things for yourself if you thought you could.
How to start changing things
So let’s take a look at whether you really do have any choice. And how to go about bringing the change you want. Also, what trying to change things for yourself might mean to the rest of your life.
SITUATION 1: For people who are just getting by financially
I am not going to gloss over this very real circumstance for so many of you. When you’re working all the time and STILL just barely making ends meet, your options feel very limited. Even if you love what you do.
Despite all the hours you put in, there are never enough. And your days fill with ever more urgent things that need your attention. It feels like you don’t even have time to think about what you might do to make things better!
But doing nothing won’t get you what you want — and deserve! So let’s look at some things you can do considering your very real need to keep earning, at least as much as you do now.
- Look carefully at what’s limiting you from getting a better job. Education? Specialized skills? Problems in your background? A lack of belief in yourself?
- Map out a positive ideal game plan. And don’t let all the reasons you can’t do it stop you at this stage. Believing change is possible is a key step. Give yourself permission to aim for more.
- Next, make a list of any obstacles. And then put on a career coach hat helping you find a way past at least some of those obstacles.
- And now take one positive step toward the change. Even if it is simply learning a new skill that employers want (and you enjoy). Maybe even a skill that could earn you more right where you are.
Yes, I know your days are already full. But now your efforts are building yourself a better future. That brings a new kind of energy. And begins to open new doors, as others feel your determination too.
EXTRA: Financial tips to help
One other way you can free up some time is to cut expenses. Not always an option, but worth looking at closely if you can find some places to cut:
SITUATION 2: If you are living comfortably moneywise, but …
On the other hand, some of you may be financially comfortable. And somehow you’ve bought into the idea that to make it big, your life has to be all about your work.
Again, if this is bringing you happiness … great. Everyone has a different way of living their life. And for some people, their work or their craft or whatever it is they do makes their days richer.
But if you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you are feeling something is off balance. Your work-life mix is out of whack. And if that’s the case, you might want to start to think about some of these things:
- Do you worry that if you took a lower level job or switched careers to something you might enjoy more, that others might think less of you?
- Would you think less of yourself?
- Or would you see yourself as a failure for letting ‘the good life” go to chase your dreams?
- What is your real definition of being a success in life? Is it only about the money and title?
- If you imagined yourself incredibly happy 5 years from now, and there was nothing stopping you, what would your days look like?
A few more thoughts
Although friends and family will offer ideas (lots of them), only you can know what would really make you happy. And the price (time, money, energy, and what else you give up) that you are willing to pay to get there.
But if part of you resonates with the thought “all I do is work,” it may be time to think about changing something in your work-life mix. Work can be incredibly fulfilling, especially if it’s something we love doing. Or it can be mind-numbingly draining if not.
Just make sure that you leave enough time for family, friends, and feeding your own spirit. No matter what your work situation is. Or at least set your mind toward getting there.
And if you are craving a different balance, please give yourself permission to aim for that life you might enjoy a lot more. Even just thinking about it starts the process. And what you put into motion now can one day reshape what today seems set in stone.
EXTRA: Wonderful The Atlantic article by Derek Thompson: Workism Is Making Americans Miserable
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