Workaholic is a term that gets thrown about easily. No one seems to take it seriously. We are a society of working harder, doing more, and pushing forward no matter what. What’s wrong with that?, we may all question. And, at the same time, many of us also question whether that operating standard and speed are always good.

Based on our experience with Thoughtful Leadership, you know we think it’s not. There may be times for putting work first and above all else, but we need to be Thoughtful about that, just like every other part of our leadership. Being a workaholic is starting to be seen as an “ism” – an addiction that pulls people away from their lives.

So, what’s the difference between doing what needs to get done and get ahead, and workaholism? In this blog post, Anita Bruzzese offers a brief quiz from Workaholics Anonymous that can help you identify if you’re simply putting in extra effort, or if it might be something more. Simply put, the quiz suggests that if work seems to be the most important thing for you, if you find that it’s the only aspect of your life in which you feel fulfilled, if the people in your life are complaining that they’ve “lost” you to work…you might want to consider another way.

And what is the other way? As always, it requires a bit of Thoughtful Leadership and intentional living. There’s a saying in programs such as Workaholics Anonymous – “Awareness is the first step.” It can be true that simply being aware of your tendencies – and willing to call them out and try doing something about them – can be a great first step. Some other steps might include:

  • Be willing to say no – Although your first impulse might be to say “yes” to every task and challenge put in front of you, say “no” to a few, to allow yourself more time and space. And be prepared for the potential backlash of fear and guilt when you do say “no.”
  • Allow the feelings – It will feel uncomfortable, and maybe scary, to try things a new way and to step away from your busyness. Again, be prepared for the onslaught of negative feelings and be willing to sit with them and let them be.
  • Remind yourself of what is really important to you – Chances are that, if you were to stop and think it through, work wouldn’t be the most important thing in your life. So stop acting like it is. When you have clear priorities – when you know that you want to spend more time with your family or friends, or you have a volunteer project that really moves you – it will be easier for you to structure your time and life to include those priorities. Maybe not easy, but easier.
  • Get support – Changing behavior is almost always difficult. It’s easier with a support system and someone cheering us on. Find someone(s) – a friend, a spouse, a coach, a colleague – who agrees with you that you need to change, and lean on them when the changing gets tough.

Workaholic may seem like a tough term, but it’s one we can all use to be aware of…so that we can steer clear of it. Working hard is fine at times. Working smart is finer. Check out your relationship with work and do what you need to do to be more Thoughtful and lead more Thoughtfully.

How do you pull back from work?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in NOT being a workaholic, contact Lisa at

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