12 Steps to Work Sanity

July 30th, 2010

We are all encouraged to find work about which we are passionate.  This is the ideal:  to work at something you “love” and get paid, too!  Those of us who achieve this lofty ideal, often find ourselves work-aholocs!  We live to work rather than working to live.

Work is a positive addiction…and it can build up and sneak up on you.  First, you gain a sense of purpose and meaning.  Then you find yourself connected to the people and place in which you work. Eventually, your identity is tied up with the organization and you begin to plan for your successful contributions and advancement in responsibilities, stature and pay.

The irony is that work addiction can actually lead to a career advancement plateau or even failure.  When we allow work to dominate, relationships and health can suffer.  And often, our moods and behaviors at work are compromised by a focus on technical expertise, aggressive results, efficient execution, heroic and self-sacrificing schedules.  You see, we are constantly reinforced for the transaction and only reminded about the importance of interaction after there is a problem with staff feedback, politics or observable behavior that indicates burnout, poor self-care, or a blow up/burn out situation.

If you find yourself in this circumstance, take a hint from well established addiction programs.

12 Steps

  1. Recognize and admit to the problem
  2. Get feedback from trusted others
  3. Assess what is working and not working in your work
  4. Make a list of changes you will commit to make in your work and life
  5. Find a partner/buddy to help you plan and stay on course
  6. Make realistic commitments to your co-workers, friends, and family
  7. Make space in your schedule for non-work related activities
  8. Create opportunities for respite, fun, recreation
  9. Look for other ways to gain meaning beyond work
  10. Show compassion in place of competition
  11. Spend time getting to know the needs of others around you
  12. Realistically manage your ambitious work demands to open space for self-awareness, self-care, self management

One comment on “12 Steps to Work Sanity

  1. Hasmik Rakijian on said:

    I enjoyed your commentary about work becoming an addiction. It can also be an obsession, where one looses themselves in their work. Remember when at social gatherings people would ask and perhaps still do…”what do you do?” Some of us finally come to a point where we understand “what we do” is not the same as “who we are”, particularly when one is unemployed. Some might say that when the “who” and the “do” are alligned, one may be at peace with oneself, perhaps in vocations like artists, musicians, actors…yet that’s not real either! Look at musicians and actors who got lost and distroyed themselves by aligning too closely who they are with what they do. I started a journal when I was 24, and that progressed into a memoir about this very subject of how your career can consume you and my learning on how not to let it get the better of who you really are…regardless of what you do for a living. The book published at now age 40-something also encompases cultural and gender diversity issues as well. It’s called “But She’s Not a Guy” available on amazon.com. Hope it inspires and helps others in sorting through the demands and their walk through life and career choices…

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