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How Workaholism Can Be Futile (And When It's Not)

Updated: Jul 4

A big dystopian city.

One of the many flaws of our world is that it encourages us to be as productive as possible. With each advancement in productivity, we are often rewarded with a good increase in our reputation, our own pride, or our motivation to maintain such productivity.

However, such advancement comes at a toll on our lives that can make our own endeavors for productivity counterproductive. It may sound like a paradox that our very own efforts to promote ourselves can demote us. In reality, that demotion is not a construct of a "demoting promotion", which does not make sense, but of mere obsession—the obsession that regardless of what we do, it's never enough. This can lead to a situation where we are so focused on being productive that we neglect our own well-being, both physically and mentally.

And not only our well-being, at that, but also that of the world...

"Society's productiveness" is how we have reached the point at which we now stand: overpopulated, overheated, agriculture artificially stretched to a breaking point, air and water polluted, multiple essential natural resources depleted, oceans dying, forests felled not for the resources they contain, but for grazing land, further choking the lungs of the planet, extinction of plant and animal species rampant.
Anyone and anything that has held "society's productiveness" even partially in check is to be treasured and fostered and commended for its irreplaceable service to Humanity. -- Anonymous

Therefore, it is important to find a balance between productivity and our own well-being. We should strive to be productive, but we should not let our productivity consume us. It is important to take breaks, to relax, and to do things that we enjoy. If we do not take care of ourselves, we will not be able to be productive in the long run.

Workaholism should not be praised by society, because it is an unhealthy condition, even if we regard it as a way to advance our efforts in whatever we are doing. Words such as "addicted", "crazy", "sick", "insane", and so forth, seem to have taken on an opposite meaning from their original definitions, as if being "sick" or "insane" are good things that should be pursued.

However, their counterproductive nature lies in the deeper meanings of their consequences. Some of our efforts towards society seem to work against us, rather than for us. This is what we get when we completely abandon any sense of self-care, which in healthy doses (as we are also important, not only others) can be good for us.

Workaholism, a condition of addiction that should be treated as such, is a construct of a world that doesn't always know when to take a break. More and more, we are pushed to our limits by family, friends, spouses, and bosses, so we can please them as much as possible. However, this comes at the price of not knowing when to regulate ourselves to relax and recharge.

Furthermore, this condition is not only a product of obsession, but also of stress. We are constantly trying to get as much done as fast and as efficiently as possible, so the requirements of whatever we are doing will be met and we will finally be left alone for the remainder of the day. This can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression.

As I wrote in my sixth book, "The Rubinshteinic Teachings", contemporary civilization, along with its many corporations, seems to benefit from the individual and make a deal off of them, by creating many ways to make them either addicted or stressed, in the name of optimal profit. It could be that because of this very reason the negative-turned-optimistic terms I mentioned earlier have originated ("insane", "sick" and so on).

These terms have originated from encouraging us to comply to the demands of many bodies, individual and collective, so we will give them what they want from us, and be finally left alone. Hence, for example, the importance of free time. When we have free time, we are liberated from the demands of the External World, at least temporarily.

Anyways, the problem with today's society is that it is too stressful, and the encouragement and/or demand to make us more productive than we already are could have, eventually, a serious toll on our lives. This could be translated to a long-lived sense of frustration, even after our duties to the External World have been met.

And, the alleged "horror" of workaholism, like with many addictions, is that no matter how productive we will be, any amount of work wouldn't be enough to satisfy our passion for activity. Since this addiction, again like with many others, is an issue of void. An internal void that is needed to be taken care of more deeply, in a way which continuous, short-term fulfillments, are not enough.

That's because while said fulfillments might temporarily satisfy our emotions, they do not permanently answer the mentality, AKA, the mindset, that encourages said void to grow beyond regular proportions. Hence the futility of addiction-fulfilling, obsession-encouraging activities and consumables. From sex to drugs and even candies. Activities and consumables which are widely encouraged to be done and to be consumed despite their long-term uselessness.

This is how we as the subjects of the External World become a "mental farm" of which we can be used to gain profit on a regular basis. It's also a flaw that exists in the pursuit of the so-called "full-life".

Therefore, if we want to satisfy workaholism, no amount of productivity will necessarily fill the void created by ourselves and by those who influence us. No amount of candy, coffee, alcohol, or sex will ever fulfill our void as long as we don't fill this void internally. If we do so, we will not only save money and free time, but also become more free from the enslavement that is the spectrum of addictions.

We must let go of the suffering-creating, frustrating passions that seem to never go away. Of the desire for more beyond its necessity; and of whatever might only create more void within our minds in the name of short-term gratification.

In other words, we must let go if we want to be let go by the misery of our various frustrations, and by the temptations of the more-than-unnecessary things that control our lives and the way they encourage us to unnecessarily spend more and more of our time, money, and mental health. We must take a look at the fruits instead of relentlessly working to raise new ones.

Unless you're fine with discontent? (2023 Update: I realized I am fine with being discontent as it allows me to utilize working optimally on Philosocom).

Serenity, all in all, can only be achieved by the void of passion, for passion itself is a form of tranquility-halting emotion that stands in our way for a life that could be better lived; well-lived with less, instead of being less-well-lived, with plenty of more, whether that "more" is an activity or a consumable. Again, unless you would like to put your life at a lower quality in favor of ambitions greater than yourself.

This is the problem with today's world: many of us are not strong enough to admit the fallacy of any kind of obsession that is seen and accepted as good hedonistically, even though it can be bad realistically. It's a fallacy that fails to satisfy our egos for the long run. But these are egos that may admits there isn't enough within itself. Hence why they strive to work outside, and not inside of themselves. Because they either know or believe that simply resting is never enough for them to feel content.

I am one of them, for I am a means to my own ends.


For more on letting go, click here. Thank you for reading thus far. Feel free to share if you found it insightful for you.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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