The Tightrope Walker’s Dilemma….
Reaching over to my desk, I picked up my phone. When the light of the screen hit my eyes, my worst fear was verified. It was just 4AM. Once again, I was up at this godforsaken hour. Once again, I had let myself fall asleep at midnight only to be awakened by my nervous brain a few hours later.
This is why I fell asleep in all of my classes. Every…. Single…. Class. This is why I was creating distance between me and my friends and family. I hadn’t called home in weeks and I had let friends (nearly all of them) fall to the sidelines as I kept telling myself I always had to do more and achieve more.
Why was I in this terrible situation? Why did I wake up at 4AM every day, depriving myself of sleep, friends, and the ability to do well in school?
Strangely enough, it was because I had what most people think of as a good thing. I had motivation; youthful, idealistic, motivation.
Earlier that year, I had picked up a book that would forever change my life. It was called ‘Think and Grow Rich’. This book was written by a man named Napoleon Hill, and holds information on how to become ‘successful’ in whatever you decide to do in life. It’s the kind of book that talks about the importance of qualities such as persistence, desire, and faith in regard to achieving big goals. It’s over 70 years old now, but if it had been published in this millennium Anthony Robbins would have been the author.
So I had read a motivating book. Good for me. I should be on my path to greatness right? I was working all day, every day, non-stop. I somehow managed to cram in all my work for my Biochemistry classes (25 hours per week was recommended for Organic Chemistry) while also planning events with MBA schools across Boston, creating an online interview website, and going to the best events around the city to meet influential men and women.
I had big goals, and yes, I was technically getting a lot done, but was it worth all the stress?
From on perspective, yes, it was worth it. It was worth it because I learned a lot about myself during that year. I learned that simply being busier did not mean being more successful. During that time I felt like a plume of fire launching up into the sky. I had a lot of heat going off, but it wasn’t focused and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. It was exhausting to exert that much energy, and my social life fell apart because of it. As an experience, going through this was great.
But would I do it again knowing what I know now? Never.
What did I do wrong?
How have I now been able to balance my social life with my ‘motivation’?
I still have big goals, but after putting myself through a year of self-imposed hell I’ve learned a thing or two about what you might call ‘work-life balance’.
One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was jumping in to massive goals too quickly. I got excited about things very easily. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and is a good place to start, because the opposite (not getting excited about anything) won’t get you anywhere.
What I discovered though, was that as I added more and more things to my to-do list (joining the powerlifting team, creating new websites, planning networking events) the quality of my work in each area decreased. After months of dividing my time between so many different goals, I came to a massive realization.
It is better to do two things well than to do five things poorly.
Because you can’t do everything, the most important thing you can do is to think about what you want to do well before jumping in. Give the thought some time to ruminate before plowing into it blindly.
Another thing that I learned during my time in chaos was the power of ‘unscheduling’. When you unschedule, you place events into your calendar that are not work related and have no direct benefit to any major ‘goal’ that you have set for yourself.
Good examples would be going to a museum or having dinner with a friend. Most people only use their schedules to plan in work-related tasks such as work for the office or assignments for classes. What this leads to is a schedule, (your time, AKA your life!) completely dominated by work. What’s worse is that every time you look at your schedule you see that there is no time left for play.
There will always be more work to do. If you’re motivated in any way, you’ll know that once you plan in all the things you need to do to ‘achieve’ there is no time left for socializing and fun. We’re humans, not machines. We need time to relax, so schedule it in or it won’t happen!
The last thing I learned during my months of insanity was that balancing work with fun and social events is a never-ending task. I now think of myself as a tightrope walker. How often does this circus performer need to readjust his balance? All the time! He never has the perfect balance and has to continually make tiny adjustments to stay on the wire.