There are many demands on our time, especially after we’re partnered, with kids, or other family obligations. In a perfect world, it would be easy to prioritise our relationships. For many, getting away from work to be with family is not just difficult; work is an addiction.
Why is a company or career so enticing? Theoretically, you’re doing it so you can afford to support that loving family that wants to spend time with you on nights and weekends.
Khe Hy at Rad Reads writes that workaholics walk what is called the “razor’s edge of ambition.” We want to work enough to feel emotionally fulfilled, but not so much that there’s a “spiral into self-loathing, restlessness and regret.”
Of course, how much you work may not always be your choice, but some people have trouble maintaining a balance, and feel the key to that emotional fulfillment is more and more work.
If you feel like your partner is making this mistake — or you’re the one who’s overdoing it on office hours—here are a couple questions you can ask to shine a light on the problem.
Abundance Or Scarcity
Hy thinks how people approach that razor’s edge — and survive it — has to do in part with their perspective. Do they believe that there is abundance in the universe, and that what they need will come to them? That’s what makes it possible to set aside your work at the end of the day without feeling like everything will fall apart by the morning:
On the other side of the razor’s edge lies scarcity or the feeling of there’s not enough. In The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist describes how scarcity tricks us into believing that there’s never enough money, recognition, stuff to own, and status. Scarcity ties our self worth to our net worth and thus makes us feel like we’re not enough.
No one wants to feel that way, so you keep the laptop open. We succumb to the seductive (yet flawed) thinking that JUST one more email will make us feel like we are enough.
You need to know from which place someone is operating from. Maybe they’re just having a busy week; maybe their sense of self has become too tied up in their accomplishments, and it’s a void that can’t be filled. Remind the workaholic in your life of abundance. It’s a shift in perspective from constant dissatisfaction to enjoyment of what one already has and what will come.
How Much Less Can You Work?
But that’s a shift that isn’t exactly concrete. It might even take therapy or some other intervention to change how you identify your self-worth if it’s not through work. So, instead consider, or ask your partner to consider, how much less could they work realistically without it actually changing their output. It’s probably more than they have considered. Hy quotes part of agent Michael Ovitz’s memoir, Who Is Michael Ovitz, to explain why people should consider things in percentages:
In 1979, when I was thirty-three, Ted Ashley at Warner Bros. took me aside and said, “I’m going to give you some great advice.” He grinned ruefully. “And, knowing you, you’re not going to take it. But here it is: I could have worked ten per cent less, and it wouldn’t have made a difference in my professional success. But I would have been a lot happier.
I didn’t take it. I see now that I could have worked as much as 20 per cent less, and it wouldn’t have cost me. If I’d worked even 10 per cent less, across thirty years, that’s three whole extra years of life I’d have enjoyed.
Realistically, that extra weekend of work most likely won’t have much of an effect on your career, especially if it’s something you’re doing every weekend. But the other parts of your life will suffer, as will your memories, your enjoyment. Try to set a percentage less you could work for yourself and stick to it. It might be more than you think.
What To Do If Your Spouse Works Too Much | Rad Reads