The Word Workaholic: Friend or Foe?


This word is said to be coined by minister and psychologist Wayne Oats in 1971. And as we near the 50 year anniversary of this word’s existence, the debate continues on whether or not being dubbed a workaholic is something to be proud of or not.

Perfect Balance Is an Urban Legend

July 5th is National Workaholics Day, and it’s a day that’s meant to remind people to balance their personal and professional lives. But is perfect balance actually obtainable?

We’re supposed to be able to have it all, right? In fact, ‘balance’ is arguably one of the greatest catchwords of the decade. People are fed the belief that if they work hard enough, they can excel at work and at home instantaneously… all while staying perfectly fit and finding plenty of time for self-care. If you’re asking yourself whether or not this is too tall of an order, then your thoughts are already headed in the right direction. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”

To actually believe that perfect balance is possible is a recipe for disaster. In your marriage, there are times when you’ll give 70% and your spouse gives 30%. In your job, there are times you can’t take the lead on a project that requires extra hours because that will conflict with your child’s extracurriculars. In your personal life, there are times when you’re too busy scotch-taping your heart together and trying not to fall apart to even think about proper self-care.

And then… your world changes.

The ebb and flow of life occurs and suddenly, you realize your spouse is giving 70% and you’re giving 30%. You realize your children have relationships and summer jobs and because of that, you can take a lead on a work project that requires extra hours. You realize your heart and your well-being are stronger with self-care and you throw yourself into proper nutrition and exercise with an unapologetic intensity that is inspiring. In a nutshell, things are off-balance again but in a way that works for your life… at least at the moment.

The Debate Continues

The pressure to live a perfectly balanced life and believing that perfect balance is actually obtainable for the long-run is why the debate on whether or not it’s ideal to be a workaholic continues. The same person who is scolded for missing their child’s school events for work is the same person who points out that to afford those school events and other extracurriculars, such as sports and band, they need disposable income.

One person’s view of the person working extra hours shows someone who is missing out on family time to earn a buck, while another perspective of that exact same person shows someone sacrificing for their children and working hard to provide the opportunities that boost their children’s self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being.

So where does this leave the conversation on being a workaholic?

Does Life Steer your Work or Does Your Work Steer Your Life?

If the work you do rules your life, so much so that it trumps what’s best for you and your family, then being a workaholic may very well be your nemesis. But if work truly fuels you and your family’s dreams, then being a workaholic symbolizes your commitment to both you and your family, especially if being a workaholic is only a season of your life.

Throw visions of balance out the window. Reflect on the hours you work and honestly assess whether they are contributing to you and your family’s best life or taking away from it. For most, life can not be void of work nor can it be completely encompassed by it. Learning to accept the ebb and flow of life and to reflect on work-related choices, from the number of hours one works to the willingness to change jobs for the benefit of one’s self and/or family, will help better ensure that the term workaholic is spoken in a positive light when applied to you.

Always remember: Work should build you up, not tear you down.

Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach