Is your life off-balance?

Seesaw in Children's Playground, Vermont

As a small child, I was so afraid of heights I was scared to go up on a teeter-totter. So I only got on with children much smaller than I was. That way I could control the experience, keeping myself in the middle and bottom ranges and sending the other kids soaring to the top. Naturally, they were thrilled with the view from on high. The view from the bottom wasn’t so great, but at least it didn’t come with a panic attack.

The other day, I realized I’m back on the teeter-totter, sitting at the bottom and hating the sucky view. Only this time, I don’t have the same level of control. That’s because the teeter-totter is my life, and I’ve somehow seesawed out of balance, becoming focused on work to the exclusion of almost everything else—including my health and well-being.

How can you tell when work stops being a labor of love and starts tipping into an unhealthy preoccupation? Ask yourself these questions:

• What are my work hours?   No, I don’t mean the hours you’re scheduled to be on the job. What’s you’re typical start and finish time each day, including meal times if you work through them, and the time you continue to spend working after you leave your place of employment? I’ll admit, I’m self-employed and can’t answer that question—and that’s a problem. If you persistently work until “whenever,” something else will be sacrificed: your family, social life, taking care of yourself physically, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. Whether or not you realize it now or after you wind up hospitalized or unemployed, those aren’t incidentals. Balance is essential to remaining healthy and capable.

• Am I making work for myself? Be honest with yourself. Are you absolutely sure you can’t manage to finish your workload in a traditional eight-hour day? You really need 12, 15, 18 hours to complete each day’s tasks? Then your employers are taking advantage of you and you’re going to wind up burning out and being replaced. Or you’re underqualified for your job and need additional training or help before you screw up something and get fired. Neither of the above? Then do you have a productivity problem to address? Or are you finding reasons to stay at work so you can avoid dealing with family or other personal issues? Whatever your reasons for maintaining this foolish pace, please know that it won’t last forever. Sooner or later, something’s gotta give. It would be better if you addressed it sooner rather than waiting until your body or your bosses address it later.

• Does this really make you happy?   Think about your last social gathering outside work. What did you talk about? Were you able to come up with topics of conversation not related to your job? Or did non-work topics bore you? Did you feel out of the loop on what’s happening with friends and current events? Did you realize you don’t have any hobbies or significant others to discuss? And the work-related stories you shared—were they upbeat? Or did you mostly complain or fret about work issues? If it doesn’t make you happy, why spend 90 percent of your time working? It’s a living, not a life. Make sure you don’t cross the line from taking pleasure in the part of your life devoted to work, to giving everything to a career that can never fill all your needs.

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Thanks, Deborah


I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.
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