Let's say you have a financially satisfying job. You're happy with your position, but the amount of work you have makes you so stressed that you can hardly concentrate. You start to wonder if you're just working to make a living, and not making a life. The truth is that if you feel constantly stressed out, don't have time to hang out with your friends, and don't remember the last time you went on a vacation — heck, you don't even remember the last time you took a break — then what's the point of working so hard to begin with? While it's important to have a career, you want to have a job that makes you happy, fulfills your needs, and allows you to enjoy life. It's time to have your cake and eat it, too.
"It’s important to ask yourself if you work to live or live to work. When you’re focused on just making a living, your priority is working hard to get ahead, making money, and putting all your energy into your career. By doing this, you end up sacrificing so many other important areas in your life that brings you true happiness and overall fulfillment. When you create an actual life for yourself, you’ll feel much more balanced. You’re able to enjoy and engage in all aspects of your life including not only you career but also your relationships, hobbies, and downtime," says life fulfillment coach and creator of the Life Map Sharon Stokes in an interview with Bustle over email.
While there could be a lot of reasons why you may not feel satisfied when it comes to your life, it's important to self-examine your situation so you can find a solution and live the life you want. Here are 13 signs you're making a living and not a life.
1. Your Well-Being Has Been Benched
The last thing you want is for your well-being to fall by the wayside. Being constantly sick, eating only fast food (no matter how good it tastes), or getting less than seven hours of sleep can prevent you from living a fulfilled and happy life. "It’s important to put [your] health and well-being first, which includes a sound mind. Don’t ignore important doctor visits and [take] care of errands that need tending to. This will allow you to return to work feeling at ease that life outside of work is in order, allowing you to refocus on important work duties," says CEO and founder of the tech PR firm PMBC Group Ola Danilina in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. You Don't Know How To Disconnect
While it's great to randomly feel inspired with a good idea for your job, you don't want your brain to constantly focus on work. This habit can make you feel unbalanced and tired, which can hinder you from creating A-grade quality work. "If [you're] not expecting an important text, call or email, turn off the work phone and close all computers. [Our] brains need time to refresh so they can think clearly about the job that needs to be done the next day. This could require leaving a laptop at work in order to really take a step back and disconnect from work stress," says Danilina.
3. You Never Use Your Vacation Time
You deserve a break, and if you don't use your vacation time to plan that Tokyo trip you've always wanted to go on, then why do you have it in the first place? Force yourself to disconnect and plan a vacation that you clearly need and deserve. "Disconnecting from work involves more than just 'out of sight, out of mind.' It also requires that individuals take some time to do something for themselves. Whether visiting family or embarking on a new adventure, allocate time every quarter for some 'me time,'” says Danilina.
4. You Don't Have Boundaries Between Home & Work
Some people stop checking their emails the minute they leave the office. They separate their work and home life so they don't become overwhelmed with stress. If you feel like you're always "on" when it pertains to your job, it's time to delete this habit and refresh your personal life (see what I did there?). "Are you expected to respond to email [on] nights and weekends? If something comes up in your personal life, do [you] feel guilty asking for time away from the office? Do you return from vacation feeling like you need a vacation?" says career coach Kim Wensel in an interview with Bustle over email.
5. You Feel Unfulfilled
If you're working your butt off, it should be towards something that's actually going to fulfill you. While there are a lot of factors in play (i.e. money, children, your pizza habit, etc.), it's important to work for your personal needs instead of just your financial needs. "There's research out there that states once you make more than what you need comfortably to live your life, your quality of life actually decreases. That's right, there's proof that chasing the money will not actually result in a happy life," says Wensel.
6. You're Not Being Authentic At Work
It's easy to feel exhausted after work if you constantly have to put on a show in front of your employees and boss just to "fit in." If you feel like you can't be your authentic self at work, it might be time to look for a new job or figure out why you feel like this. "If it feels like you can finally [be] yourself once you get home and strip off the work clothes, there's a good chance you aren't being authentic at work. Maybe you don't express your views because you think they won't be acceptable or you dress a certain way because you want to fit in. Whatever the reason, the bigger gap between who you are in your on-time and off-time, the more disconnect you're going to feel during the majority of your day," says Wensel.
7. You're Anxious For The Weekend
Producing mediocre work just to finish it before the weekend is another sure sign that you're making a living and not a life. You should feel proud about the type of work you're making. If you feel like you have too much on your plate, talk with your supervisor to figure out a solution so you can have a better work-life balance. "This might be a clue that you're working for the weekend and not for something you care about. An easy way to explore this idea is to start small. Maybe you're employed in finance but you're really interested in baking. You don't have to drop everything to run off to baking school. Maybe you could explore options for working with a gourmet food company or supporting a local baker on a contractual basis with their finance needs," says Wensel.
8. You Have Career Tunnel Vision
While having an awesome career can allow you have an amazing life, you can't fully enjoy the little moments of your life if work is constantly consuming your thoughts. "When someone is working their life away they tend to ignore all the amazing other things around them. I call it career tunnel vision. They can’t turn their brain off from work mode. It’s all they can think or talk about — and a lot of the time it’s more negative talk, which causes a lot of unnecessary stress," says Stokes.
9. You Turn Down Social Outings
"They also tend to turn down social outings because of work or being too tired from work. It's also challenging for them to think about other things they enjoy doing because they’ve allowed work to consume so much of them," says Stokes of people who turn down social outings. If you can't remember the last time you hung out with buddies, then you need to stop whatever you're doing and treat yourself to a much-needed friends' night out. You deserve it.
10. You're Defined By Your Career
Some people determine their worth by the type of title they have at their job. But honestly, it doesn't matter if you're not happy in your current position. "It’s important to make a life while you work to feel overall fulfillment and balance. Your career doesn’t define who you are. What defines you is how you show up in the world in everything you do, to have a deep sense of self-awareness, and to live life to the fullest. You need to allow yourself to explore and engage in all areas of your life," says Stokes
11. You Don't Feel Good Enough
"People who work their life away tend to be filled with fear and a feeling of not feeling good enough. They feel they have something to prove to themselves or others and the only way they know how to do that is through their work. They also tend to determine their worth by the amount of money and power they have," says Stokes. If you've been striving for a stellar career for God knows how long, and you've finally achieved it but still feel empty, then it might be time to figure out why. While it's important to accomplish goals in your life, you also want to make sure that you're happy at the same time.
12. You Don't Know What You Want
Don't freak out if you no longer have an idea of what you want. It can be hard to find happiness in your life when you don't have a clue. You become stressed with the unknown and constantly pressure yourself to achieve greatness to fill a void. "Creating a life you love living requires you to look at all the areas in your life and ask yourself what you want more of. Everyone requires a different level of balance to feel truly fulfilled. What you need to feel satisfied will be completely different from someone else. It comes down to knowing your specific needs, what your limitations are and being honest with yourself when you start to feel burnout, loss of control, or when you feel you’re missing out in other areas of your life," says Stokes.
"I recommend creating a list with all different areas in life that are important to you like career, family, finances, health, fun and entertainment, romance and personal development. Rate each category on a scale of one to ten in regards to how important it is to you. This will help you discover what areas of your life you want to dedicate more time to. Also, rate each category out of 10 with how much time you’re dedicating to it right now. This will show you the areas in your life where balance is lacking so you can focus on creating a more enjoyable life," continues Stokes.
13. Your Relationships Are Suffering
"When your relationships start [to fail], it's a major sign something is out of balance. What is truly your top priority? If it's your family and relationships, then it's worth any price to make sure you get those priorities straight and make time for those you love," says clinical psychologist Christina Hibbert in an interview with Bustle over email. Knowing what your priorities are can help you achieve a better work-life balance, especially when it comes to your friendships. And even though your besties will love you no matter what, they deserve a little TLC every once in a while, too.
While it's important to make a name for yourself in your desired industry, you want to make sure that your personal needs are being fulfilled as well. If you feel like you can relate to this list more than you like, it might be time to take a step back and re-evaluate your wants and needs.
Images: Pexels; Bustle