It’s all too easy to make excuses for our behavior rather than take a long, hard look in the mirror and admit that we have a choice to make and we must change. Change is hard, but the right thing to do is rarely ever easy. You have to decide for yourself what really matters and live your life by those principles.
On the topic of excuses versus choices, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
Workaholism, just like other addictions, is intergenerational. Many of us have learned it at home from our mothers and fathers, and we cannot even imagine any other way of being in the world. Work took precedence over everything in our households and families. We could only have fun after the work was done, and the work was never done. We could only relax and take care of our personal needs when the chores were completed and the house had been straightened up.
Work was always tied to the necessities of life, getting ahead, and the American dream, and these ideals justified anything, even cruel and inhuman behavior in the family.
Now we have the opportunity to break the intergenerational chain of workaholism. We have a chance to be different. We have choices.
Let me notice today how many times I use work as an excuse for my inhuman behavior.
I never felt neglected growing up, nor would I classify any of my parents’ behavior as cruel or inhumane. However, I did come away with the impression that work took precedence over much in life. In fact, I was dismayed to discover that friends and family were unsympathetic when I declined invitations to baby showers, weddings, and graduation parties because I had to work. I thought it was understood and even expected that one put their job before everything else in life. Similarly, I thought it was customary to spend hours each day cleaning your house, to scrub every surface until they shined, before one could rest and enjoy themselves. While my parents never made me do any chores as a child, my mother certainly led by that example herself.
Both of my parents were perfectionists in their own right, and my entire life I believed this to be a good and natural thing. It is good to seek perfection, I would tell myself, because you strive for better results than anyone else. If it leads you to be miserable though, how much good is it really doing you? So often I feel paralyzed by my drive for perfection to the point that I can barely complete assignments on time. Luckily, I have a choice in the way I live. I can choose to do things differently going forward. I choose to prioritize myself and the people whom I love over work, chores, and errands. In this way, I choose my own happiness.