On this track... we will discuss identifying what is important. The purpose of this track is to provide a basis for beginning therapy with a workaholic client and to provide you with a technique for Identifying Priorities.
For many clients, work demands are always more compelling than those of their home lives. I find that client arguments for favoring work life over home life are often specific: "I need the paycheck." "I need the raise." "I need the promotion." "I have responsibilities at work." All this is probably true.
However, I find it helpful to ask clients like Jim about what else he needs that he can’t get out of work. Jim, age 42, worked between 72 and 80 hours each week. Jim, like most clients, responded, "I guess I need a good home and a family." Do you find that your workaholic clients truly value aspects of life outside of work? Of course. Loving relationships, a home, and the time to focus on the physical and spiritual self is important to even the most determined workaholic clients.
Identifying Personal Priorities
But how do clients like Jim convince themselves that it’s all right to turn down a work request in order to spend more time on your home life? Jim found that one key is to have a very clear picture of his personal priorities, those that mattered to him as much as his work. Your client’s, like Jim’s, work priorities are probably clear to you already.
When your client is at work, there tends to be reinforcement as to why the job is important and what goals must be accomplished. Jim already had a sense of what career success looked like. Therefore, I asked Jim, "But what is success for you in your home life? What do you want to achieve? What in your home life is important to you?"
Would you agree that confining the definition of success to the marketplace overshadows the value of success in the rest of a client’s life? I stated to Jim, "Assume for a moment that you will achieve whatever level of career success you want in your life. What else do you want to accomplish before you die? How do you want to be remembered and by whom? Just what kind of a person do you want to be?"
But how do workaholic clients like Jim identify priorities, whether they’re related to home or to work? The following exercise can give clients like Jim the opportunity to identify Personal Priorities.
Technique: Identifying Priorities
For the ‘Identifying Priorities’ technique, I explained to Jim that the technique was more productive if he implemented it in a setting where he could concentrate for ten to fifteen minutes. I stated, "You will need a pencil or pen and about fifteen to twenty index cards (you can also use the back of business cards, small pieces of notepaper), or a post-note pad. Having quiet music in the background is helpful, too. Set aside your immediate concerns for a while and be prepared to think about yourself and what you want from your life."
I asked Jim to take a look at a list of phrases. You can find a similar list in the manual that accompanied this course. After Jim reviewed the list of phrases, I asked, "Which ones are important to you, in either your home or your work life?" Jim stated, "I think the most important ones are ‘having a close family,’ ‘parenting wisely,’ and ‘connecting, caring, relating to others.’"
Clearly, as Jim saw phrases that appealed to him, he began to copy each down individually on a card or small piece of paper. I stated to Jim, "Now sort through those and create a pile limited to the five that are most important to you. That’s right, choose only five."
If your client has trouble limiting himself, he can stretch the rules and create subcategories. For example, a client might choose "Having a close family" as the main category and include "Parenting wisely" and "Connecting, caring, relating to others" as a part of it. If your client still has difficulties, perhaps you might suggest focusing on what is most important for the client in the next year or two.
Identifying and limiting the number of Personal Priorities to five may seem arbitrary, but I find that it actually serves a critical purpose. Clearly, for workaholic clients, time is limited. Clients like Jim have too much going on already. By limiting himself to a reasonable number of priorities, Jim was more likely to make each more likely to happen. And, as you know, as he limited himself to five, he forced himself to make those hard choices about what does matter.
On this track... we discussed identifying what is important. The purpose of this track was to provide a basis for beginning therapy with a workaholic client and to provide you with a technique for Identifying Priorities.
On the next track we will discuss Reducing Non-Productive Motivators. This next track will identify some major motivators and provide techniques for reducing money’s influence and reducing the need for work related approval and praise.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bonebright, C. A., Clay, D. L., & Ankenmann, R. D. (2000). The relationship of workaholism with work–life conflict, life satisfaction, and purpose in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(4), 469–477.
Bovornusvakool, W., Vodanovich, S. J., Ariyabuddhiphongs, K., & Ngamake, S. T. (2012). Examining the antecedents and consequences of workaholism. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 15(1), 56–70.
Brady, B. R., Vodanovich, S. J., & Rotunda, R. (2008). The impact of workaholism on work-family conflict, job satisfaction, and perception of leisure activities. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 11(2), 241–263.
What is one way of helping a workaholic client identify what is important?
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