Being a workaholic

Being a workaholic

Balancing work, life, and intellectual pursuits is essential for a fulfilling existence in the modern world

When someone calls us a workaholic many of us tend to treat it as a compliment, but it needs a second thought. In most cases, being a workaholic is being a moneyholic if we can call it so. Sadguru Sivananda Murthy used to say that it is as bad as being an alcoholic. The time allotted to money making is disproportionately more than it really deserves for a happy and balanced life.

An opening verse in theHitopadesa, a primary text on self-management (and on statecraft), says that an intelligent person must pursue knowledge and wealth disregarding old age or death. It means that he has to pursue them as long as he can, while being alive. The second line of the same verse says that simultaneously he must do dharma with the idea that Death has caught him by the tuft. People approaching death tend to do good deeds before they die. This is the attitude told in the second line. Death can overtake a person at any time, in any stage of life. Thus, the verse talks about balancing dharma, prosperity, and acquisition of knowledge. Our traditional texts talk of dharma, Artha and Kama, the three inescapable pursuits of humans.

A scientist, a researcher in his quest for knowledge is in his tapas and such a person has to be excluded from our present discussion. A Shankaracharya who toured incessantly, debated, and wrote, cannot be called a workaholic.

For the rest of us, a balanced social life requires earmarking time for the three pursuits. Our texts describe the ideal kings and other great characters who knew how to apportion time for these three. In those times, the earlier part of the day was to be spent on activities relating to dharma. This included the study of scriptures and daily rituals. This can be followed at least to some diluted level even now. Following the daily regimen suggested in our texts will itself bring about the balance, without any independent effort on our part. Leaving the bed before sunrise and getting engaged in basic rituals is perhaps the basic drill which can be followed by anyone. This suggestion may annoy those whose interest is in investigating the stock market early in the morning.

All our daily rituals, even if condensed to half an hour a day, are meant to give us the proper approach to work during the day. As we noted in some earlier essays, they provide discipline, and avoid the possibility of boredom or the question ‘what next’. Even our prayers are not mere lists of requests made to deities, but for a person who knows their meaning, they give the philosophical vision of what the human being is and what his role in the world is. With this perspective he walks into his worldly duties and his reactions will be mature and faultless. Thus, he is also pursuing the second human goal, Artha, which refers to prosperity.

Tragically, we are losing the habit of reading good literature and classics which give us the right frame of mind for all human relations including man-woman relations. Psychologists note the lack of beauty and elegance in the present-day relations between the two sexes. Traditionally, great poetry was meant to impart immediate bliss to the reader, and continued bliss (aalochana-amritam) for a mature reader who contemplated it. This is true of good literature in all languages. There is a definite need to earmark time for Shakespeare, or Kalidasa or other great poets. This enhances the quality of our third pursuit, our permitted quota of pleasure (kama), within the framework of dharma.

Wise parenting is a part of dharma, and it is a tough task now. About two generations ago the grandparents in the house took care of the children while the young parents were busy with daily chores. The task now is with the parents only, demanding time. It is indeed a battle of wits between parents and children.

A wise workaholic balances life, work, and intellectual pursuits. He is a self-motivated, dharmic workaholic in a more happy and healthy sense.

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