In today’s fast-paced society, it’s easy to get caught up with wanting to do more and wanting to be more. We tend to believe in the myth of “having it all.” We believe that we can give 110% to anything we put our names on without consequence. We believe that superior performance in every area of our lives is possible without sacrifice. The truth of the matter, however, is that it is impossible to live life at a constant frantic pace without another area suffering because of it.
Why is this? Well, for one, we only have 24 hours in a day. We must make a choice about how we spend those hours. Even if we are incredibly efficient and driven, we are still limited by the earth’s rotation around the sun. Another reason, I believe, is because it is impossible to give 110% all the time. Living that way requires, over time, more resources than we are able to actually produce. Living life in a constant state of pushing ourselves past our maximum means that we will burn out. Whether we like it or not, we need rest, we need relaxation, and we need to recharge. And if we fail to acknowledge our humanity in this sense, we will suffer the consequences of this down the road.
Think about the ways in which you sacrifice in order to get the day’s tasks done. The things you do may be so natural to you at this point that you don’t even notice them, but ask yourself if you have to use things like caffeine or sweets to get through your day. Ask yourself if you are getting the amount of sleep that your body really needs. Ask yourself if you are spending enough quality time with friends or family. Ask yourself the last time you did something for the pure enjoyment of it rather than because it got you closer to having one more thing to check off of your to-do list. Ask yourself if you are living your life or just getting through to the next task.
If the answers to these questions start to reflect a pattern of neglecting your body, your loved ones, or your sense of self, it’s time to slow down. That may seem impossible with the hectic life you’ve built for yourself or it may seem counterproductive to everything you’re doing. But continuing to go like this will lead to inevitable burn out and the consequences of those are far greater.
So what can you do today to slow down?
1. Give 60-80% to certain projects instead of 110% to everything
Realize that giving more than what is sustainable over time can hinder you. Pace yourself and look for projects where you can give 60-80% and still be proud of the outcome. As a perfectionist, that may sound like heresy but figure out what your minimum standards for quality are for certain projects and meet those — rather than trying to always meet a level of perfection for every single thing that you do. It doesn’t mean cutting corners, but pacing yourself to have a life that meets your high standards but isn’t reliant on unhealthy quantities of certain foods or drinks or cutting out relationships and fun times.
2. Spread your efforts more evenly to all areas of your life
This requires a shift of thinking because you may be giving 110% to the areas of highest priority in your life without realizing that you are giving 10% to your health, your family, or yourself. Spreading your energy and efforts more evenly across all areas of your life will serve you better in the long run, even if it seems “detrimental” to what you’re doing today. When you have to tell yourself to slow down a little, remember that it means that you are conserving that energy for something else that’s important to you. Always keep this in mind when you feel like you aren’t living up to your impossibly high standards for yourself.
3. Take care of yourself
At the end of the day, you need to be your own best friend. Respect your body and it will respect you. Going at a frantic pace usually means abusing your body in some sense by stuffing it with an overwhelming amount of convenience foods or drinks to fuel it and/or sacrificing sleep and exercise. Being healthy and not dependent on these sorts of things to get through your day will lead to clearer thinking, longevity, and vitality. Give your body the proper fuel it needs to be nourished and cared for. You’ll thank yourself later for it.
Image Credit: Relaxing Music / Flickr