Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

The Secret To Avoiding a Fatal Mistake in the Office

No one can be told what the Matrix is

Chapter 10: Embrace People First Part 5

I love the movie The Matrix.  At the beginning of the movie, Neo had a feeling that something was wrong with his life, but couldn’t tell what it was. He discovered that his entire life had been a lie, an elaborate illusion constructed by a malevolent computer network.

Nothing so dramatic in my life, but I did get a signal that opened my eyes to my life of corporate idolatry. Many of the thing that kept me in a “company-first” mindset were also illusions. A spiritual teacher told me that I was smart to listen, because he ignored the signals he was given, and his life had to fall apart before he started to make changes.

My father once told me that he knew alcoholics who suddenly stopped drinking because they “heard something.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They heard angel wings,” he answered. “The wings of the angel of death. They knew that if they didn’t stop drinking, they were going to die.”

Kind of creepy, but the image stayed with me.  Have you ever heard something, or had a quiet voice in your head saying that things are not ok?  Remember Sue, the VP who was secretly crying and throwing up every day?  She ignored a “nagging voice telling me it had gone too far,” and she ended up sick.

For some people, life won’t change until a crisis. One person suggested that I try to reach people who have hit rock bottom due to burnout.  She is a psychologist, who worked crazy hours until her father got sick, and her life went on tilt trying to deal with it all.  She took a leave and may never go back. “I would not have been ready to hear this message until I got to the breaking point.”

After telling my story at a writers meeting, a woman handed me a note that said “I just buried my 52 year old husband due to Karoshi [a Japanese word that means death by overwork].  He was a brilliant genius.” She told me her husband was a workaholic, driven by “inner demons” and couldn’t be reached. And a friend of mine had a coworker drop dead of a heart attack at his desk after he was laid off.

I refuse to believe that nothing can be done until it is too late.  I am the proof. I am convinced that I would have had health issues if I were still working 90 hours a week today.

It starts with listening to that little voice that says things should be different. It isn’t the voice of fear; it is the voice of hope.

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  1. […] It’s called withdrawal, and it will pass. He went cold turkey for health reasons. He missed the early signals, and a health crisis hit in his late forties’. It is far better to take a slow and steady pace […]