Sunday, January 16, 2011

On Workaholism

I came across some articles on workaholism, and read them, in part because I am sometimes accused of being a workaholic. I am not sure that I am a workaholic, though. I think that there is a difference between a positive way of having a strong relationship with one's work, and a negative way of having a strong relationship with one's work. The articles I have read seem to support such a distinction, to some extent, and yet still lean heavily on the side of being suspicious of those who work long hours.

If I am honest with myself, I must confess that my own relationship to my work is mixed. On the positive side, I like my work and am devoted to fulfilling its ideals. I try to do a good job, not for problematic reasons (wanting praise, esteem, power, or money), but because I care about the actual effects on other people: I want people to learn, and through their learning, become happier and better people in the world.

On the negative side, I realize that I do have pathological tendencies that I must constantly be on guard against, especially a tendency to feel I have to prove my worthiness as a human being by doing good work. That's there, but while I do have to struggle against it, it's not the sole motivation for work. I also have to make a living, but that is not my sole reason for doing this work, either. Related, I have deep-rooted fears of letting people down. So my work can get a bit fear-driven if I am not careful to watch this as well.

But, I try hard to keep the good reasons in focus, and front and center in my daily consciousness.

I tend to regard workaholism as a compulsion-driven addiction. If I were primarily driven by esteem or financial considerations, or fear, I would confess to being a workaholic.

But because I do have positive reasons for devoting myself to my work, and try to prevent the more problematic reasons from controlling me, am I right to conclude that I am not really a workaholic?

How do you define the term?

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