Am I A Workaholic or Just Driven?

I’ve been sick.  I mean really, really sick.  I don’t get sick much but when I do, it’s pretty bad. Even while sick I try to be as productive as possible since I can’t stand being idle.  But this time I slept for most of the day…for a few days.  I couldn’t even force my brain to write any articles for this blog.   After hearing that I had taken a few sick days, a friend sent me the text below:

“Damn this must be bad then cuz u don’t take off work. It can be Armageddon and u workin lol.”

Ha, ha, really funny.  But then I got an instant message from another friend (yes, the laptop was on and in bed with me) asking if I was working from home even when I was sick since I’m such a “workaholic”.  Ding!  Lightbulb went on.  I’ve never been called a workaholic and here were two totally different people who had never met each other basically saying that I work too.  I thought, am I a workaholic? Is that a bad thing?

I’ve never even given it a moment’s though because it’s what I do.  I work.  I don’t think of it as being a workaholic, I think of it as being driven. But maybe I’ve been looking at things all wrong my entire life.

I’m an immigrant.  We know this.  Some immigrants have a somewhat different mentality towards work.  We know that too.  I got my first job at 15 and I’ve been working ever since.  At one point I even had two jobs while in high school.  This kind of made me think of an old In Living Color series.  Does anyone remember this?


So I’m like the Wons and the Headleys.  Work doesn’t scare me.  It never has because I think of work as a means to an end.  The end goal is complete independence.  I’m not talking about retirement, I’m talking about working for myself, but in steadfastly working towards that goal have I lost sight of where I am today?  Am I forgetting to stop and smell the roses?

When I talk about complete independence what comes to mind for you? To me it means complete and utter freedom to make the decisions that I want to make; to do what I want to do when i want to do it; to go where I want to go; to be who I want to be.  I really do not think that I can do that as long as I have a heavy debt and quite frankly, working for someone else.

I’m not looking down on anyone that is content to work at their jobs.  A job can make someone feel complete and whole in a way that nothing else can.  For me, a job does not do that.  A job is not who I am.  It does not make me the person that I am.  It is a means to an end, and I am willing to work as much as possible to get to that ultimate goal, but I realize that I need to change my thinking.

Simply working more, working harder and aiming higher is not enough.  I realize that it can never be enough.  I can’t be a robot anymore.  I can’t get up, go through the commute, be attentive at work, commute back home and work from home until 2 a.m. every day anymore.  I’ve done it for years and it’s not sustainable.  It doesn’t make me whole.

But I am so focused on this goal of complete independence that it is as real and essential to me as oxygen.  Without it I don’t think that I would know who I am.  I’ve always been a one track mind kind of person.  When I have a goal I am totally focused on reaching that goal and all of my energy is completely devoted to it.  It’s not that I’m a type “A” person.  Far from.  It’s just that I want very badly to attain my goals and I don’t expect anything to be handed to me.  Ever.

But with that said, I guess at this point in my life it’s time to refocus, no? Getting out of this debt is still 100% important to me and will always be important for me.  But I realize that I’m approaching middle age, and I have lots of things to check off from my bucket list.  Even without checking off bucket list items, it’s time to change the way that I look at some things. For instance, I don’t take vacations.  I don’t know what to do with myself on vacation.  My last vacation was to put a headstone on my grandmother’s grave a year after her death.  My vacation before that was to attend her funeral.  Before that my vacation was to meet with potential suppliers in Vegas over 2 days.  That was back in 2004.  Before that, I think I went to Miami back in 2003.  I’ve always thought of vacations as a perfect waste of money and time that I could spend doing something else.  After this past summer spent renovating my rental home, I now understand and respect the value of a vacation.

This change doesn’t mean that I’ll lose my focus though. It just means that I know that I need to weave other things into my life, and dare I say it, slow down a little bit? But I will want to ask, do you think that I’m a workaholic, or just driven?

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12 thoughts on “Am I A Workaholic or Just Driven?

  • I struggle with this idea often and my best guess is that it’s a constant balancing act. There are times when my 4 jobs take over my life and times when I get everything together and go on vacations (which are definitely vital to your well-being so go on them!). I’ve been labeled as a workaholic as well, but I don’t take that as a bad thing because I’ve been able to accomplish great things due to my work ethic and drive to reach my goals.

    Whatever you decide, remember that it’s an individual choice that has to be best for you. Slowing down is not an indication of not being driven and it usually has immense benefits in that you return to your normal activities and schedule better focused, relaxed and even more motivated than before!

    Best of luck with your balance journey!

  • I agree with the Happy Homeowner in the vacations are vital to my well-being! I was feeling very burnout and last weekend took about 36 hrs to unplug and unwind… now I’m feeling motivated again.

    But back to the question… I think being a workaholic and being driven are often very different things to different people. I work two jobs (for other people unfortunately) at about 70 hours a week. To me that’s just being driven so I can accomplish my goals of 1) get out of debt and 2) gain freedom to work for myself. To my roommate it’s being a workaholic.

    The way I see it, as long as you’re taking care of yourself and accomplishing things *you* want to accomplish, then there is nothing wrong with being perceived as a workaholic by other people. It’s your life after all.

  • Do you feel anxious when you aren’t working? Being addicted to work is the same as being addicted to anything else. Is it affecting your relationships and other parts of your life?

    My dad was a workaholic, and had the fallout in his life to prove it. Him and my mom got divorced because he was working so much and wouldn’t cut back. The only time he seems calm is when he is working. Otherwise he’s a bundle of nervous energy. This has actually gotten better as he’s gotten older.

    Working a lot because you want to and working a lot because you HAVE to are two different things. To me, it sounds like you are just driven.

    • That is really sad, Ashley. I don’t think work or anything in life should overtake you. There needs to be a balance. Works is important–definitely–but it shouldn’t drown you. You work in order to pay bills and also enjoy life. I will never become a workaholic. I don’t want to be on my deathbed one day and all I can replay in my head is being at the office….I want to live for something.

  • Although I am a 2nd generation American, I am driven too. I have been teaching 10 years and only took a 2-3 days off. I have over 106 sick days accumulated. I try to maintain balance in my life. My wife and I go out every Friday and Saturday for dinner, socialize with friends, read a lot of books, travel (mostly overseas), bicycle, weights and even relax. I forgot I spend 40-50 hours a week blogging! I try to fit in as much as I can.

  • There’s a difference between working a lot to meet goals, and working a lot because its the only form of fulfillment you have / you feel anxious or stressed when you are not working. The latter category is what happens with workaholics. Its important to have balance and remember that any one of us could get sick or die at any time (morbid but true) and I’d hope that looking back, you feel you have used your life in a way that planned for the future but also allowed you to experience life fully through family, friends and experience in the moment.

  • I was a workaholic. At one time I had 5 internships, a part time job and was going to school at the same. You read that correctly, no typos. I’d wake up at 6am and go to sleep at 3am. I eventually crashed and burned with a family death and it took a long time for me to recover. I’m learning that I have time. I don’t have to work myself to death. I just have to do what I have to do, without killing myself. When you’re sick, listen to your body and slow down. I didn’t do that, and it led to a few health problems. So slow down!

  • Well, I am an immigrant and I cannot imagine myself not working. Ever. One of the reasons is fear. I fear to not be able to provide, to support my family here AND overseas, fear to lose everything I achieved. Loved your post!

  • Being a workaholic is a good thing. It means your company can depend on you all the time. You are less likely to be laid off. I see so many people at work who does not do work and always looking for ways to leave early or come in late. These people will be in danger of losing their job. I’m sure they will regret it later. Unfortunately it will be too late.

  • I say you’re just driven. I like happyhomeowner have multiple jobs. fortunately only 2 of them require my presence the others require my brain and a small amount of time to go over the numbers. but if you’re capable and goal oriented you will tend to want to achieve that goal faster and faster. I say bravo to you. Stay driven!

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