Posts Tagged ‘personal guilt’

Knowing When to Stop

January 24, 2013

One of the things I enjoy about January is the “back to business” ethos that seems to permeate most places. With the holidays behind us, folks seem relieved to return to their rhythms, productivity at the forefront (at least in most places outside of the nation’s capital). We have goals to achieve! Challenges to surmount! Energy to burn!

Which makes for a nice segue to my thesis: as important as it is to accomplish goals and get things done, an equally important part of this equation is knowing when to stop.

Now, given my inherently lazy proclivities, this is not generally a problem for me—but sometimes, it is. Whether you’re a perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive, suffer from an overdeveloped sense of personal guilt or responsibility, or a warped determination never to “lose,” some of us can be driven to continue way past the point of common sense. This applies as much to household tasks and job assignments as it does to maintaining relationships beyond their expiration date. Forcing ourselves “to do that extra little bit,” isn’t always a wise move and it can extract an enormous psychological, emotional, and physical toll, much to our detriment.

In a competitive landscape, where we may host unreasonable expectations for what a “good” parent/employee/child/friend/person should do, I’ve witnessed manifold examples of people pushing themselves beyond their limits. More often than not, the price they (and others around them) pay hurts them far more than the extra effort advances. While, of course, there are extraordinary circumstances that do require additional adrenalin, we do not live in a universe of continual emergencies.

A big challenge for me in my career was the fact that I existed in a world where everything was declared a crisis, so I naively spent many years responding to each event like it was cataclysmic. Do you see how that can drain a person? I am not an ER doc; no matter what I do, no child’s life hangs in the balance (thank God). But, you wouldn’t know that from the level of intensity and chaos of my daily world.

Hopefully, you don’t have anything close to this in your own life, but we all have issues and circumstances that we believe can be handled/improved/enhanced if only we dig a little deeper and try a little harder. Is it a relationship that’s gone on the rocks? Is it our obsessive tendency to make sure the house is spotless or our party is perfect? Is it a determination that our children will succeed (as we define it)?

In order to have the internal resources available for the times they are truly necessary, we must know when to stop. When to give ourselves a break. When to relax. When to stop worrying. When to recognize that no matter how hard we try, we cannot alter the direction another person is heading. Do you know when to stop?

In many respects, it is enormously liberating to set down those burdens. You can pick up the sack tomorrow, if you must, but a key part of building and maintaining strength is allowing the body/mind/emotions to recover. Successful Re-booters know their own limits. They smile, sigh, and stretch out on the sofa for a nice catnap. Now, doesn’t that sound nice?


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