Obsessed with Work!

obsessed with workMany professionals believe that business success will make them happy. In my 14 years of coaching ambitious men and women, I can tell you that the formula, Success = Happiness is a myth.

The people that hire me to coach them want to become more successful. I genuinely admire their ambition and hard work. And I’m more than happy to coach them to a higher level of business and material success, BUT…

In their great desire to make more money, gain recognition and feel good about themselves, many people define success too narrowly. Their consuming focus is all about business and financial success.

One of my new clients is a brilliant and ambitious entrepreneur. He’s making a very comfortable living and has a beautiful family, but he’s a bundle of nerves. How come?

He’s extremely hard on himself. He’s never satisfied. He thinks he should be farther down the path of success. He compares himself to “more successful” people and winds up feeling badly about himself. No matter how well he’s doing, it’s not enough. He’s chronically consumed with work and constantly worries about how he’s going to get to the next level.

He works 65-75 hours a week. When he gets home, he has a hard time shifting into family mode. He doesn’t turn off his phone or his computer and he’s rarely fully present with his wife and kids. His wife and two young children have been begging him to spend more time with them. He can’t find time to take vacations.

I recently asked him what it would take for him to be happy. He told me that once he is making $750,000 a year, he’ll feel more secure and happy and will consider taking more time off to be with his family.

I have to constantly remind him of why he started his own business in the first place: To have more freedom and control over his own life. Unfortunately, he’s become a slave to the business.

It doesn’t have to be this way. He doesn’t have to push himself so hard. He could take more time off. He could shift the way he runs his business. He could lighten up, relax more, and appreciate the success he already has. He could focus more on his family. I am working with him to shift the way he runs his business and sees it in relation to the bigger picture of his life.

I recently read an article about a palliative care nurse who works with patients at the end of their lives. She regularly asks her patients what they regret most in their lives. Five common themes have emerged:

  • They wished they’d had the courage to be true to themselves and not lived as they felt others expected them to.
  • They wish they hadn’t worked so hard. They also regretted not spending more time with their mates and children.
  • They wished they’d had the courage to express their feelings more.
  • They wished they’d kept in better touch with their friends.
  • They wish they’d allowed themselves to be happier.

It’s important to remind ourselves of the greater purpose of why we’re working. Work is a means to an end—it’s only a part of life. We should continually strive for balance between work and the other important areas of life.

Success doesn’t equal happiness, but happiness is definitely an important measure of success.