Written By Nick Sutherland
G’day you Muttbags!
Following on from the last blog where we explored the signs of a breakdown and why it’s important to find balance, I thought it might be worthwhile looking at potential reasons why some blokes bust a nut and get themselves into strife.
My time spent talking to guys who are nearing or have actually broken down have revealed one pretty common denominator: money.
The desire to be well off, financially secure or “loaded” is in many cases causing more harm than good. Cash is a huge driver of people’s behaviour, but it’s actually masking the real reason why blokes are working so much – fear.
Looking at it objectively, its kind of funny how afraid some “big strong men” are. They’re afraid of being judged as a bludger, inadequate to provide for their family, missing out on all the latest things and “keeping up with the Jones’s”, all of which boils down to them being afraid of what they deem to be failing.
Fear isn’t the only driver though - blokes seem to wrap their self worth up in how many hours a week they’re doing and in a lot of instances, it becomes a competition.
“Did 45 hours this week mate.”
“That’s nothing, I did 60!”
“You blokes are both pussies, I clocked 70…”
So what’s the cost of fear or ego dictating how many hours a week we work? Lets take a look.
Not spending time with family: Guys say they’re working so much to give their family what they want, but I feel this is a justification. Kids spell love “T.I.M.E.” and a wife or partner wants a guy who she can depend on to be there when she needs him.
Neglecting your own health & wellbeing: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – before you can be great at work or at home, you need to first and foremost be a great you. Not having time to go to the gym, to eat well or to be “present” when you're at home is only going to have a negative impact on your life.
Having no outlet: Imagine driving a car without an exhaust pipe….whats going to happen to it? How would it perform? Now imagine driving that car all day then parking it in the garage at night and leaving it running, then jumping straight back into it in the morning and doing it all again. Its not the cars fault its not running or performing well.
Working more than 10 hours a day is associated with a 60% jump in risk of cardiovascular issues.
Working more than 40 hours a week is associated with increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy weight gain in men and depression in women.
Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week. In companies with normal overtime, only 23% had absentee rates above 9%. In companies with high overtime, 54% had absentee rates above 9%.
Individuals working 11 hours or more of overtime have an increased depression risk.
Injury rates increase as work hour’s increase. Those who work 60 hours per week have a 23% higher injury hazard rate.
In manufacturing industries, a 10% increase in overtime yields a 2.4% decrease in productivity.
In white-collar jobs, productivity declines by as much as 25% when workers put in 60 hours or more.
(Stats from Ryder Cullison’s article “When does work become unproductive and unhealthy?” on www.interview4.com)
All of this just to be successful. Is it worth it? Are we doing things in a healthy and sustainable manner? Is it time to explore if there’s a better way? And finally, is it time to redefine what we believe and envisage “success” to be?
Personally, I love my work. Running my own business, I could easily work day and night because I’m so passionate about what I do…my motivation is vitality based.
Because my motivation is from there, its easier (not easy though) to put the brakes on, get out of the office and create balance. I’m in this for the long haul and my idea of success is a life in which I get to feed my soul, feel content, and contribute something positive to the world. It has nothing to do with the size of my house or how expensive the stuff I fill the house with is.
(Bit of insight for you – a few years ago I sold everything I owned except my dog, motorcycle and a few clothes. I just wanted to see how it felt….and it was good.)
Blokes whose motivation is productivity based feel they “have to” work, so its much harder for them to down tools and step away. They get trapped in “survival mode” and this mindset where “I just have to keep my head above water”. They justify meeting what they believe to be their families needs as a reason to work so much and many often start their own business to spend more time with said family.
Rarely does it work out that way unfortunately. The tail starts wagging the dog and before you know it, the business is dictating how you spend your time and energy. You become co-dependent on the money because you’re trying to maintain the façade or sustain the lifestyle you have created…it’s a slippery slope.
So take a minute to step back, reassess what’s really important to you. Ask yourself “Do I really have to be working so much?” and explore if there’s a way for the business to stop being so co-dependent on you.
I’ll leave you with this – I had a client come to see me about 5 years ago because he wanted some help learning how to cope with stress. He informed me he does anywhere from 12 to 16 hour days running his own business. I asked him why he’s working so much and he replied, “To give my kids everything they want.”
I replied, “Can you give them a hug as you drop them off or pick them up at school?” and he burst into tears. I’ll never forget that bloke and the changes he soon made (contrary to all the things he was telling himself).
Nick Sutherland is an ex recon soldier turned mental health practitioner and advocate who is on a new mission to educate men on how to create and maintain a positive state of mind. Nick is also the founder of MyndFit.
0448 339 662