Chuck, I firmly believe in a strong work ethic. But where does being a great, productive worker stop and being a workaholic take over? – Bordering balance in Nebraska

In today’s world, being a workaholic has gone from being a negative stereotype to being a hit Comedy Central series. But it’s no laughing matter.

Compulsive overworking has become the new normal. Work is no longer a place but a state of mind. There is no longer an addiction to work – it’s just a passion for what you do. “Go!” has become the new greed. We have befriended busyness.

Ray Williams, president of Ray Williams Associates – a company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, that provides leadership training and executive coaching services – recently explained in the Financial Post: “USA Today published a multi-year poll in 2008 to determine how people perceived time and their own use of it. The survey found that in each consecutive year since 1987, people reported being busier than the previous year, with 69 percent responding that they were either ‘busy’ or ‘very busy,’ and only 8 percent saying they were ‘not very busy.’ Not surprisingly, women reported being busier than men, and those between ages 30 to 60 were the busiest.

“When the respondents were asked what they were sacrificing to their busyness, 56 percent cited sleep, 52 percent recreation, 51 percent hobbies, 44 percent friends and 30 percent family,” Williams continued. “The respondents also reported that, in 1987, 50 percent said they ate at least one family meal a day; by 2008, that fell to 20 percent.”

Take a good look again at what we’re sacrificing: sleep, recreation (re-creating), hobbies, friends and family. And we don’t think those will take a toll on the quality, vitality and longevity of our own lives?

In an article Williams wrote for Psychology Today, “Workaholism and the Myth of Hard Work,” he argued how a “contributing factor to the problem of workaholism is the prevailing belief in hard work as the route to success, particularly wealth.” But the key is working wise around your daily optimal energy, balancing your life and living by healthy priorities.

How long will it take us to learn busyness is not always equated with productivity?

Williams cites Sara Robinson, in her insightful article on “Bring Back the 40-hour Work Week,” in which she says, “150 years of research proves that long hours at work will kill profits, productivity and employees.”

Williams summarizes Robinson by noting that “research shows knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than physical workers – about six. U.S. military research has shown that losing just one hour of sleep a night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a 0.10 blood alcohol level. And most ‘typically have no idea of just how impaired they are.'” The same is true for over-workers.

Of course, this couldn’t possibly relate to you or me, right?

Here are only 10 questions adapted from the “20 Questions” of Workaholics Anonymous – an international group based upon the 12-steps that aids the recovery of workaholics and those who love them – to help discover if you or a loved one are a workaholic or are prone to its patterns and captivity.

If the answer to most of these questions is in the affirmative, consider yourself or them a card-carrying member of the compulsive overworking club:

  • Do you get more excited about work than about family or anything else?
  • Do you work more than 40 hours a week? (Or reply, “Everyone I know does!”?)
  • Do you believe that it is OK to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  • Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
  • Do you get impatient with (or look down upon) people who have other priorities besides work or get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  • Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
  • Do you have a difficult time delegating or truly trusting others with work duties?
  • Do you think about work while driving, falling asleep or others are talking?
  • Do you take work with you to meals? Bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  • Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?

And I would add:

  • Do you think rest is overrated? An inhibitor to your productivity?
  • Does being unplugged from social media and the digital world feel like torture? Is temporarily cutting off your cell phone, computer or social media like cutting your carotid artery?
  • Do you believe there is no way you could be a workaholic or have an abnormal preoccupation with work?

I heard a line once: “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”

The outcome is all the same: personal deterioration, relational distancing, productive dilapidation and even moral degradation.

For the record, I believe we can be amazingly productive workers, but I don’t believe we need to forfeit our health, family and personal life in the process. I’m living proof that an old dog can learn new tricks even in this area.

If you’re ready to get your life back on track, strive for healthier work patterns and improve your personal life, then I recommend the following tips for recovery from the Workaholics Anonymous website (

  • Learn more about the disease of compulsive working through literature such as “Workaholism: A Brief Guide and the Twenty Questions.”
  • Learn more about recovery from workaholism through literature such as “The Workaholics Anonymous Book of Recovery: Living With a Workaholic – for Family and Friends.”
  • Read other Workaholics Anonymous literature.
  • Attend an open meeting of Workaholics Anonymous. Find open W.A. meetings at
  • Attend Work-Anon meetings for friends and families of workaholics.
  • Attend meetings of family groups for other 12-step programs (like “Celebrate Recovery”).

Other free, great resources for establishing healthy living and work patterns can be found on the website. Search “Workaholism.”

For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.

Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at

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