The Sky's the Limit (not really though!)
I used to have a bad habit. Well, not really a habit since the word “habit” suggests something voluntary.
For a bit of background… my entire adult life my time has been taken up by work, volunteering, exercise, friends, and downtime. Back in the old days, though, the first four items had way outbalanced the last item. I gave myself many reasons for not stopping or not cutting back. Unfortunately, as many of you know, the smarter you are, the more convincing you can be to yourself, even when what you’re saying is irrational. Maybe some of these sound familiar?
“People are counting on me.”
“I can’t back out on my obligations.”
“No one else can take care of this.”
“I can handle this stress better than the others.”
“I’ll cut back once things get less busy.”
“But I enjoy doing this!”
I can keep going, but I think you have the gist.
As you can tell, these types of statements aren’t the most helpful thoughts. In a way, we are attempting to convince ourselves that we live in an alter world. In that world, the pace of life ebbs and flows and busy times are followed by slow times. That alter world also contains an alter us that has endless amounts of energy, limitless stress tolerance, infinite amounts of time, and a magical ability to rejuvenate while working (when it’s something we enjoy).
However, just because we wish something is true does not make it so.
You Are Not Superhuman
In many cities, the pace of life is not balanced and there is much more flow than ebb. Also, the actual version of you is not a superhuman, you have limitations that are bounded by biology, physics, and psychology. In other words, the sky is not the limit. If you try to act as if you are this idealized version of yourself, the more likely it is that you will wear yourself down and move into a very non-idealized version of yourself. We sometimes get caught up in a certain way of thinking and forget that we can choose how to perceive ourselves.
In my case, I kept making excuses and pushing myself. My body sent me little warning signs letting me know that it wasn’t happy, but I continued with my rationalizations for why I couldn’t reduce my activity level.
The Body Fights Back
One year, my back went out. My involuntary prone-ness forced me to cancel all appointments, all obligations, all everything for an entire week. All of the things that I said I couldn’t get rid of, I got rid of, and the crazy thing is that the world did not fall apart. I didn’t get fired, friends didn’t turn their backs on me, and my reputation remained positive.
Did I learn my lesson?
So, every year, for several years, my back would go out. At some point, I caught on to what was happening and realized that if I just took better care of myself and moderated my activity level, I could prevent this annual state of total dysfunction.
Clarify Your Values
Similar types of dilemmas are being experienced by many people right now. Staff are praised for working late and logging in the middle of the night. Friends are praised for "getting it all done." Children are praised for getting straight As and being involved in extracurriculars every day. Since when were overextending and exhaustion things to strive for?
Despite what others expect or laud, ultimately, you are the only one who can determine how to carry out your life. Your boss, friends, and family are not in charge of making sure you are operating within appropriate boundaries. Only you can make sure that you are living in a way that is aligned with what is actually important to you.