By Graeme Gordon
Why obsessive behaviour may be harming us in the workplace and at home
When does a love of something become an obsession? And when does an obsession become a danger?
My dog – a yellow Labrador Retriever called Merlin, with an obsession for chasing balls – may have the answers.
Being a gun dog, Merlin has an instinct to retrieve things. In his case, it’s balls. You only have to say the word “ball” to get him excited and ready to run all day. If he sees a ball or even the “chucker” we use to launch balls for him, he is in an ecstasy of anticipation.
Now, here’s the rub. When he was less than 18 months old, Merlin had to have a fairly major operation on his elbows, as he had both his elbows displaced. The operation went very well and he was able to run and jump like any young dog. However, he did get stiff if over-exercised and often we needed to use ice packs on his joints.
A painful obsession
Being a Labrador, Merlin never complains. As a breed they appear to suffer pain stoically, but we always needed to be vigilant.
Merlin was five years old last May, so he is about 40 in dog years, and unfortunately arthritis has set in on his elbow joints.
We can, and do, give him massages, pain killers and all the vet recommends. Merlin is still ball obsessed but the vet has explained that if we throw a ball for Merlin, it will only make the arthritis, and the pain, much worse.
Thus, we have had to curb Merlin’s obsession for his own health. His days of chasing balls are over but if sees another dog chasing a ball, or just a ball lying around, he will retrieve it to me and expect me to throw it for him.
Now I don’t expect many of us are “ball obsessed”, but we do need to look at our own obsessions and whether they may be damaging to us.
All work no play
Are you so obsessed with making sure your work is done that you miss out on spending time with your family and friends? Work-life balance is not just a phrase. Without a strong support network, just like Merlin needs strong bones, your life becomes merely an existence and not an enjoyable one.
Similarly, are you so obsessed with keeping clients that you take hair cut after hair cut to your bottom line? The best thing for you and your firm maybe to abandon those uneconomic clients, just like we had to remove Merlin’s ball, and concentrate on the truly valuable clients and services.
In my own role, there are processes or collateral that I have introduced over my time with Praxity that I am particularly proud of and connected to. But I need to listen when others tell me that its time has passed or it needs to be rethought.
I too need to put my equivalent of Merlin’s obsessions behind me and move on. What was the right thing to do or produce, even 18 months ago, may not be appropriate now.
The lesson for all of us is that we mustn’t get too precious about anything and we must always listen to advice about the best way forward.
Next time you find yourself being challenged on something that you are obsessing over, think about Merlin and his ball, and ask yourself if it’s maybe time for you to let go of your own “ball obsession’’.