Do you feel guilty when you are doing nothing? - Northwest Chatter - Explorer

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Do you feel guilty when you are doing nothing?

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James C. Sandefer

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Are you a person who experiences guilty feelings about occasionally doing nothing? If so, you’re not alone and your partners are called workaholics, or “doaholics” if they happen to be retired. Many people believe they need to be accomplishing something all the time; otherwise, their self-esteem falls. This often happens because they grew up with the work ethic that busy hands were happy hands; looking busy was as important as actually being busy, etc. To workaholics, relaxing is a form of laziness and leads to underachievement or eventual failure. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, relaxation needs to be monitored and programmed into one’s daily schedule to enhance performance.  Optimal results are difficult to achieve when you are mentally or physically exhausted. Sometimes we’re physically tired and our bodies give us messages such as muscular pain or cramps. When we’re mentally burned out we don’t quickly, clearly, or adequately assimilate information, which results in confusion, frustration, anger, mistakes, and accidents. We read about people who fall asleep at the wheel of a vehicle because they were both mentally and physically exhausted. Their bodies most likely gave them clues such as a stiff, tired neck and bobbing of the head when unintentionally dozing off.  These signals, when ignored, can lead to lethal, unnecessary consequences. 

Workaholics routinely push themselves beyond reasonable levels of mental and physical fatigue and believe it is always courageous to “work through the pain.” Why? Is there some life threatening connection to their self-imposed deadline? The answer is most often, probably not. Their personalities have evolved into a circle of self-imposed challenges and achievements that feeds their egos. It is unlikely they ever ask themselves “Can I accomplish this task more effectively and efficiently with some rest?”  

This condition isn’t restricted to men or women, and both can be driven to excessive accomplishment behavior. Another unique facet of their compulsion is when they have finished their “important” work those around them are supposed to be sympathetic because they behaved in an overzealous, potentially damaging manner. They seek acceptance for demonstrating unrealistic, unhealthy behavior. Again, it is doubtful they ever asked themselves “Why do others seem reluctant to applaud my obsessive behavior?”  The answer is, they don’t understand it and view it as potentially destructive. A person who occasionally exceeds a confirmed standard of mental or physical exertion may deserve some recognition. However, those who exist by thriving on excessive behavior need to learn that it’s actually disconcerting and somewhat frightening to those around them. They may need professional assistance in reality and priority realignment.  

Workaholics are doing themselves and those close to them a disservice by demonstrating behavior that eventually leads to failure. 

Learning to realistically pace your daily activity and set an example of sustainable performance is a healthier, happier alternative to an addiction to perpetual achievement.  Take a break; you deserve it.

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James C. Sandefer

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