The airport lounge was so ornate. I ensconced in the couch and took the first sip of complimentary juice. But none of this could alleviate the stress of crucial meeting abroad as I felt unprepared despite weeks of exhaustive work. Coincidentally, I recalled a grim encounter with my kid. It was almost 8 PM and she was expecting me to call it a day and play with her, but I refused and terminated the talk as I was carried away from pressure of deadline. That day, I volunteered to present company’s new project to a client which eventually landed me in the airport.
The TV affixed in the lounge was featuring a famous motivational speaker who suddenly grabbed my full attention. He quoted a popular Book “The Top Five regrets of the dying”, and one them was, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. I was shocked as he seemed to be talking about work-addicts like me. The boarding started at the same time and I moved towards the door.
The book was written following the success of an inspiring, yet poignant blog “Inspiration and Chai” by a palliative nurse, Ms. Bronnie Ware. She recorded the unfulfilled desires of the departing patients and summarized them in five themes: Working harder than required, not having courage to express myself, not pursuing a personal interest, staying disconnected with friends and last, but perhaps the most critical, not keeping yourself happier.
I lamented that my life possibly following the same path as the memories of many jeopardized social and physical activities creeped up in my vision.
Only recently, I missed the major part of a recent wedding as I was composing an email, but only to discover that it remained unread for days. I frequently get distracted by official calls and emails even after signing out from work. I have missed most gatherings with friends because I never excuse myself from working long hours. I had a dream to learn a new language but over the years only business jargons have expanded my vocabulary. I was fond of cycling and jogging, but those activities are totally gone. I wondered if I was working to live or living to work!
Having assessed my lifestyle against the blog I continued reading and found an article on Workaholism in Forbes. It identified that two symptoms of being Workaholic are: spending a lot more time on work and compromising leisure activities for work. Also, many people validate their workaholic behavior by confusing overwork with hard work. Overwork or compulsion to work specifically means sitting overtime, working on weekends and staying connected to work in offline hours. Hard work, on the other hand, is about devoting time for right things and taking them to culmination point within stipulated timelines.
I was about to conclude that overwork misconstrued as hard work kept me hostage for years. I further learned that general well being – that is, the state of physical, mental, social and spiritual satisfaction – eventually has a positive correlation with professional growth. Initially, the extra amount of work seems to be proportionally adding rewards but in the later stages, professionals or entrepreneurs who take care of their overall wellness maintain the progress. This is because they can better overcome stress and work-related limitations.
It was not easy to accept the shocking realization that the same penchant for work which paid me well in last 10 years, needs to be intensely reviewed.
I noticed a Japanese who appeared to be in sixties and was glued to the laptop screen while most passengers were long asleep. I wondered how his country could make tremendous progress had it not been due to obsessive passion for work. Luckily, I grabbed an opportunity to talk with him and it was revealed to me that Japan required its nationals to overwork only to recover from WWII damage. Later, the addiction to work posed severe consequences resulting in suicides and deaths – the Karoshi – due to stress. For same reason, Japan stringent amendments in 1990 to in Labor laws optimize workloads.
The dialogue proved to be the last nail in the coffin of workaholic mentality. I stared out of airplane window. The sight of barren sands filtered through clouds was captivating, but I was immersed in the bird-eye view of a new life with optimized allocation of time.
“Sir! please buckle up your belt, the plane is about to land”, alerted the air-hostess.
All that musing made me inattentive during the announcement. The Airplane started to descend, and I decided to land as a different person with right healthy work-life balance.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.