3 Ways to Stop Being a Working Martyr and Be Happier in Your Career

(This article was recently published on LinkedIn.)

Are you sacrificing joy, happiness and fulfillment for a job, career or paycheck that isn’t getting you where you want to be?

Do you:

  • Hope for something i.e., more interesting work, recognition, reward, a promotion, etc. and find yourself working harder to get it even though you feel like you’re getting nowhere?
  • Find the more you do, the more you’re asked to do creating a never-ending treadmill of overwhelm and dissatisfaction?Workplace headache
  • Consistently work late and on weekends sacrificing any chance for a fulfilling personal life or relationship?
  • Take little to no time off to rejuvenate because it would be “frowned upon”?
  • Dread Monday mornings and live for Fridays only to be so exhausted on the weekends you still don’t have any fun?
  • Keep pushing yourself to keep going even though you aren’t happy?


If you answered yes to even one of these questions you could be on the path to working martyrdom instead of the path to career happiness and living a balanced fulfilling life. If this sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone. I can relate. I’ve been there, done that. It took me falling down a flight of 18 steps and almost breaking my neck to solve how to stop being a working martyr and to bring some balance back into my life.

As a career strategist who works with successful professionals in law and in the corporate world I hear over and over again, “I keep working hard and all of these hours because it’s expected. I thought it would get me somewhere. Now I realize it isn’t getting me anywhere and I’ve got to make a change.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be said for working hard, being passionate about what you do and being dedicated to a standard of excellence. But when it comes at the sacrifice of your health, your relationships, and your well-being you may have gone too far.

Martyrdom snuck up on me. I was bored at work and wanted to become a trainer. Always the strategist I figured out how to get noticed and was recruited for a training team. You can probably imagine my boss wasn’t thrilled. The deal was to be part of the team I had to get my regular work done too. You probably know what is coming next … amazingly my regular work assignment was increased too.

top-banNo problem. I was sure I could do it all. I kept up the frantic pace for quite a while until I became exhausted from an overwhelming workload and back-to-back cross-country business trips. Rolling down those stairs when I fell on the way to a business meeting I heard my neck crack. In that moment I wondered if I’d ever walk again. In the quiet solitude of the emergency room the tough questions I’d been shoving aside for a long time came to the surface — “What am I doing this for?”

Throughout my legal and management career I was surrounded by successful people who made a lot of money. They worked 24/7. Many of them hated their jobs. Putting in extra hours at a job you didn’t like was just part of the price you had to pay to get ahead. No longer willing to feel that way or to sacrifice my well-being, I decided satisfaction, balance and happiness were too important and there had to be another way.

Here are three things I discovered (and that you can do too), to stop sacrificing joy, happiness and fulfillment for a job, career or paycheck that isn’t getting you where you want to be.

Get Off the Treadmill and Take Inventory. If your body, mind or spirit is trying to tell you that you’re doing too much, listen. Take some time to sit quietly and to listen to that wise voice in your head or heart that is letting you know you’re out of balance and that something needs to shift. When I work with my clients we find that one shift, the tipping point that starts the cavalcade of dominos falling into place so you start living your life differently and start getting more of what you want.

“I’m in too deep” Is No Excuse. If you are asking yourself the question, “What am I doing?” or “Why am I doing this?” and you don’t have an answer, it’s time to come up with one. Lots of the professionals I work with, in law for example, have spent a lot of time, money, energy and effort going to law school and building their career. The last thing they want is to think about years wasted. The trick is to see how everything you’ve done up to this point can be leveraged and repurposed to lead you onto a new path and a more fulfilling career. Giving up your law degree or what you’re passionate about may not be necessary. A change in perspective, environment or circumstances may be all that’s needed for you to have career happiness and balance in your life.

Know your 100 percent. I don’t know anybody who goes to work wanting to fail or to purposefully do less than 100 percent. The trouble is many of us don’t know what our 100 percent effort is. Women especially, give 120 percent or 150 percent thinking it will get them recognized and rewarded. If you’re working hard “hoping” extra effort will lead you somewhere without knowing where “somewhere” is or how you’re going to make it happen you’re giving your power away. It’s like being in a relationship and thinking the more you do the more likely someone is to notice you and shower you with gifts even though you’re not really clear about what you want and the other person has no clue what you’re up to. Getting clear on what you want, through self-reflection or by working with a career coach like me, can get you clear on your 100 percent effort and let you know how and where to expend your precious energy and efforts to get happier in your career and a more fulfilling life too.

If you’d like a guide to show you one step you can take today to stop being a working martyr and to be happier in your career contact me for your complimentary Thriving in Your Career Discovery Session.