woman working hard

Which are you? A workaholic, who is a person who compulsively works excessively hard and long hours? A wantoholic, who is person who always wants something in order to give them a sense of purpose and make them feel better? Or perhaps you are quite possibly both?

Typical signs of a workaholic include if you:

  • Are always thinking about work
  • Get stressed even when not at work
  • Are an excessive perfectionist so you don’t feel satisfied
  • De-value your personal priorities
  • Don’t take real vacations or cannot switch off when on vacation
  • Find your mind constantly wanders back to work when engaged in other activities
  • Keep working hard despite being sick, putting work ahead of your health
  • Don’t feel well or like you are thriving, constant headaches or fatigue for example
  • Make yourself too accessible constantly replying to e-mails out of hours or answering your work-phone in evenings and days off
  • Hiding work from loved-ones so they don’t have a go at you
  • Micro-manage and fail to delegate effectively
  • Can’t say NO easily to work
  • Can’t say YES easily to things outside of work
  • Take on more than you can realistically achieve in a time period
  • Work through your lunch break, or don’t make time to stop in the day
  • Don’t make time for fun and other hobbies or activities

If you recognise a few of these in yourself, then you may have just defined yourself!

As for a wantaholic, well typical signs may include if you:

  • Are prone to thinking about the future more than the present
  • Find yourself in unsatisfactory relationships
  • Find yourself obsessing about food in some way
  • Have a tendency to create drama when everything seems to be going well
  • Are constantly coming up with new ideas before seeing old ones through fully
  • Engage in obsessive behaviour – about hobbies, exercising, work, relationships – that could be described as more than just passionate
  • Change your business model or job more often than average
  • Push your children or partner to succeed beyond them being happy so you can place them on a pedestal and boast about them
  • Talk about what you desire more than what you have
  • Feel dissatisfied despite your life seeming to be successful
  • Feel incomplete or lacking purpose consistently

How can I describe this so effectively when there is no dictionary definition of the word I hear you ask? Quite simply, this was me a few years ago. I was definitely a combination of the two, to the extent I made myself ill and unhappy. I resonated in a constant state of working incredibly hard and yet feeling little satisfaction despite having a highly successful business, three wonderful children, a stunning home and enough money.

The niggle that sits inside us, calling our name, will eventually shout loud enough for us to pay attention to it. At some point we will realise how out of balance our life is, how our relationships are suffering, or maybe we don’t even find time to have a relationship, despite wanting one. Perhaps our health will be affected or we will finally see that everyone else is having more fun than us, and that we too deserve a piece of the pie. Perhaps we will ask ourselves – is this all there is? That maybe we too deserve to have some fun rather than everything seeming like such hard work. We may recognise that we haven’t been able to enjoy our successes because we were too busy moving onto the next thing that we thought would make us happy – the next want!

Why does this happen?

Usually there is a lack of self worth or self love. It may have been present in childhood. You may have grown up struggling with money, or been starved of affection for example, so you strive as an adult to have what you didn’t have, but don’t know where to draw the line. You strive in adulthood to prove yourself, and desperately seek a purpose, only to find what you thought would give you satisfaction when you find it, doesn’t.

How can you do things differently?

The answer to that varies from individual to individual which is why I found that reading self-helps books – another obsession at one stage of my life- wasn’t the answer. It helped of course – it gave me insights, but it didn’t tailor those insights to my life, my personality, my circumstances in order to help me shift away from it. Videos, workshops, online programs – they all had the same less than optimal effect.

I was an incredibly busy woman, with a lot on my plate who didn’t have time for lengthy processes – I just wanted a fix. I would reward myself every time I managed to say ‘NO’ to something, and give myself a virtual pat on the back when I finally managed to create some kind of boundary, but it never lasted and wasn’t consistent. I’d engage in visualisations, meditations, journaling – all sporadically. My house was filled with notes everywhere to remind me of how I needed to change and find balance – to have some fun! Of course, all this was doing was feeding my want-a-holic nature because it permitted me to obsess about obsessing!

It took several failed long-term relationships, years of struggling with weight and body image due to my food obsession and constant high stress, never feeling like I could coast and revel in the success of my business, never feeling I got the recognition I deserved, and then submitting to chronic fatigue, that pushed me into action, or in-action to be more precise. I had time to recover – there was no other choice.

I didn’t want to see a therapist because there wasn’t actually anything mentally ‘wrong’ with me. I was a fully functional bubbly engaging human being, but needed something more in my life. I needed more fun, more time for me, more health, more control, more from a relationship and certainly more balance. My solution was in finding myself a coach, someone who understood me and connected with me, who would believe in me and hold me accountable.

Being obsessive and hard-working as I was, you can imagine how I revelled in the work needed, the deadlines I could hold myself to with accountability, the processing and lists, but it worked! It plucked out of me what I had been hiding from and gave me ways to work with it. I even re-trained as a coach myself and have devoted my new career to helping busy professionals like myself find solutions to their wants, by recognising what their underlying needs are, and have fun doing it! So its a win-win!

Final tips to shift from work-a-holic and want-a-holic:

The first step of course is in recognising the issue, which this article is aimed at doing. If I then had to share what I believe to be the most useful aspects to work on, they would be:

  • A baseline of where you are so you see yourself on paper and have something to shift away from
  • Understand who you are – purpose, needs, fears, blocks, values, beliefs
  • Develop boundaries, communication techniques, leadership and mindset skills, manifestation techniques around energy
  • Put it into practice and play with it – have fun, use accountability, process and learn without heaviness
  • Reflect on your growth and celebrate!

If you’d like to find out more, there are more tips and tools in my best-selling book Women Who Want More: How To Create A Balanced & Fulfilled Life, and further audio resources on my website, where I also offer a free discovery session to help you get what you truly want. We all have choice, and recognising that is usually the first step to change, empowerment and to growth.