For years, I was a workaholic. My previous company was in the hospitality industry, and for many years, I lived on site at one of the hotels. This meant that both guests and staff considered me to be on call 24 hours a day. And why wouldn’t they? I responded to every knock on my door, even at 3 AM.
And when I wasn’t sleeping (or having my sleep interrupted), I was working. For years, I worked 16-18 hour days. I would get up in the morning, head to my office on site, and stay there until going back to my room to sleep. My entire waking life consisted of work. The restaurant’s cooks would deliver my meals straight to my computer: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They brought me juice and water at regular intervals throughout the day. I thought I had a great system going. It was all organized.
But actually it was more like being in a prison, one I had created for myself: sleep-work-sleep-work, usually for seven days a week. At the time, I managed to convince myself that it was all necessary to keep the business running and growing. But in reality, it was my way of surviving. I didn’t distract myself online, I didn’t chat with friends all day, and I didn’t even own a television. I just worked my way through life.
I was like a horse with blinders on, plodding through each day. And I didn’t even realise there was anything wrong with it until a conversation one day with a family friend who worked with recovering addicts. He explained that addictions were ways of surviving and distracting ourselves from our real problems in life, and that there were many kinds of addicts, including workaholics.
The purpose of this story is to show you that survival comes in different forms. For me, working was a way of surviving. I was deeply unhappy in life, and work kept me busy. It was a way to keep my mind occupied. A way of ignoring that void I felt inside myself, that uncomfortable inner reality.
Maybe your life doesn’t feel that dismal. But unless your Wheel of Life is ranked a 10 out of 10 in each area, it’s likely there’s room for improvement. Take a while to think: what are your survival techniques? What do you do to keep yourself distracted from life? And how can you reduce the time spent on these distractions so you can focus on actually living your life?
As you work on your answers to the three happiness questions (Who am I? Where am I? Where am I going?), you may realize that you no longer need these survival techniques. You’ll be living a happy, fulfilled life. If you feel frustrated or impatient, keep in mind that life is a path. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll be one step closer to an amazing life.