You can choose not to be a workaholic

“Confessions of a Workaholic” is a book I could easily have written.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved my work. It’s been easy for me to take work home and burn the midnight oil. To say yes when I really should say no. Or to skip a fun event because the work in my house or on my desk demands it.
I’ve always understood exactly what Edna St. Vincent Millay meant when she said, “My candle burns at both ends/It will not last the night/But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends/It gives a lovely light.”
That’s how I feel about work. And I guess by today’s definitions that would make me a workaholic.
But when Dr. Wayne Oates introduced his new book, “Confessions of a Workaholic,” back in 1971, the word workaholic wasn’t even in the dictionary. To this day, the Oxford English Dictionary credits Oates with adding the word to the language.
Says Dr. Oates in his first chapter, “Workaholism is a word which I have invented. It is not in your dictionary. It means addiction to work, the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.”
Wayne Oates knew the importance of work, even as a boy, for he grew up in poverty in the cotton mill area of South Carolina. His father left the family before he was born, and his mother worked in the cotton mills.
At age 81, he said in an interview, “None of my people went past the sixth grade.”
With a background like that, Dr. Oates knew there was only one way out–education–and he took it. Thus it was that by 1971 the boy from the cotton mills had achieved uncommon success.
At age 54, Dr. Oates was a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a theological consultant at a psychiatric clinic. He was the author of 16 books and widely-known as a pastor of pastors.
Unfortunately, Dr. Oates felt he might have paid too high a price for his career. It was then that the creative academic coined a word to describe himself. “I,” he said, “am a workaholic.”
Dr. Oates wrote the book somewhat tongue-in-cheek and in the preface called it “a serious jest.” At the same time, he honestly believed that workaholism is counterproductive and destructive, and he begged his readers to create balance in their lives.
But all that was 28 years ago. Since then, workaholism has become epidemic. And Workaholics Anonymous, with its 12-step recovery program, has taken its place along with Alcoholics Anonymous and other self-help groups.
Dr. Oates’ message of balance in life is needed now even more than it was in 1971. And his own life is the best proof that his message actually works.
From the time he abandoned workaholism until his death last month at age 82, Dr. Oates had stellar success, including a long-time teaching career at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and the authoring of 57 books during his lifetime.
He also will be remembered as the 20th-century person who did the most to integrate psychiatry and religion.
All this was possible because Dr. Oates realized at an early age that play is as important as work; laughter as important as seriousness. And that balance in life is necessary for success.
So what about you? Have you ever been tempted to be a workaholic? If so, why not start today balancing your work with play; your seriousness with laughter?

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