For centuries, authors, politicians, educators, and entrepreneurs have pushed the idea of the American Dream on people. They say you can achieve anything if you work hard and dedicate the appropriate amount of time and energy to professional development and career pursuits.
While this is technically true - the nature of the American business world makes it possible for anyone to find financial success - the concept of chasing the dream has ultimately fostered an enormous problem: an addiction to work.

What is Workaholism?

Work was never meant to be the most fulfilling part of life. The purpose of work is to contribute to society, earn money to cover family expenses, and save for the future. Over time, the American idea of work has become perverted.
Standard 40-hour workweeks have turned into 50-, 60-, or even 70-hour workweeks. In certain occupations - lawyers come to mind - the expectation may even be to work 80 or 90 hours during particularly busy periods.
Long hours aren't the only problem. Many people are attaching themselves to their jobs and finding their ultimate value and meaning here. Everything they do centers on their work, which frequently leads to workaholism.

According to American Addiction Centers, anyone who demonstrates a high rate of four of the following seven criteria is deemed to be a workaholic:

  • Intensely focusing on ways to create more time in one's schedule to work.
  • Regularly working longer hours than originally anticipated.
  • Using work as a coping mechanism for managing guilt, anxiety, depression, and/or feelings of helplessness.
  • Ignoring the concerns of family and friends about the amount of time spent working.
  • Feeling stressed if one is unable to work.
  • Frequently compromising mental and physical well-being at the expense of working.
  • Experiencing negative health effects due to working.

5 Ways to Defeat Workaholism

Perhaps you've never considered the fact that you might be a workaholic, but the signs don't lie. Whether you're just now coming to the realization that you suffer from workaholism, or you've known it to be an issue for years, here are some practical action steps you can take:

1. Uncover the Real Issue

What's the real problem you're facing? Workaholism isn't the root issue - it's anxiety, fear of rejection, craving for approval, etc. Until you uncover the root, you won't be able to properly approach the issue of your addiction.

2. Pay Attention to Your Personal Life

One way to defeat workaholism is to find meaning in other things. When you start to find value in relationships, hobbies, religion, and personal health - to name a few categories - the importance of work will dissipate. This doesn't mean you'll suddenly cease to work hard - just that your priorities will be ironed out a bit.

3. Set a Disciplined Schedule

If you talk to people who have successfully overcome workaholism and now enjoy healthy work-life balance, you'll find that most of them are very good at setting a disciplined schedule and sticking with it. You should learn to do the same. Set your work hours and abide by them, no matter the consequences.

4. Be Intentional About Unplugging

When you're on the job, be the best lawyer, doctor, programmer, athlete, mechanic, etc. that you can be. When you're off the clock, be the best you that you can be. To do this, you have to be intentional about unplugging from work. Log out of your email, turn off your business phone, and don't focus on work until you clock back in.

5. Use Your Vacation Time

Here's a novel idea: use your vacation time and personal days instead of hoarding them for a rainy day! People who take vacations are proven to be happier and have better perspective. Don't squander this gift!

Don't Suffer Alone

You aren't alone in your workaholism. Chances are, you have friends, coworkers, and family members who are also suffering from workaholic behavior. The more open you are about your struggles, the more support, encouragement, and transparency you'll find.