I started working at 14, and for the next decade plus here are some of the (mostly subconscious) rules that I had for myself:
1. If you are not making a lot of money you are not allowed to rest or have fun.
2. If you don’t work 40+ hours a week you are not allowed to rest or have fun.
3. If you are starting to feel burnt out, work harder because you don’t want that weakness to permeate your being and ruin your life.
4. You are allowed to take vacation, but only if you work so hard before you go that the entire vacation you are just recovering from the double-time work you did the previous week in order to go on vacation.
When I would run into someone who was ‘taking time for themselves’ and living a life of balance, and I would judge them fiercely. At work, I would pride myself in never taking my breaks, and even sometimes working off the clock to finish the job. It was clear to me that I was a ‘better person’ because I could work 8 hours straight without even going pee.
Then, as I started to shift my life and I went back to school to become a Life Coach, I realized that these are common belief systems. There is an entire culture of people running on this hamster wheel, racing to prove to themselves and others that they are worthy (worthy even of rest, or of having fun).
It was hard for me to escape this hamster wheel because it comes with its own reward systems. Not only from upper management, (of course they love that you are giving your life for their dream!), but also from our American culture. We live in a culture, for the most part, that does not hold life-balance as a high value. We, as a whole, define people by what they do to make money. It goes even further that then that too. When we hear of someone taking time off, working part-time, or god-forbid going on unemployment while they figure out their next move, we disparage them. We think, “Ugh, they are not working, so they have no value!”.
While I was giving up my life to meet the standards of being a 'good hard-working American', I was praised for my "work ethic" and so I continued to over-work so that I could feed my praise-addiction. Now, I realize my naivety. At the time, I didn't understand work ethic. I thought it meant: to work as hard as you can for as long as you can, until you fall down exhausted with no energy left for yourself, your hobbies, your friends, or your family. I was wrong. Work ethic is about integrity, responsibility, quality, discipline and teamwork. It is about showing up 100% and using all of your skills, gifts and energy to create the best results. You can only really do this if you are living a life of balance. You can only bring your best self to the table if you prioritize what it takes to sustain your best self.
So, I realized I had to make a choice. Was I going to live by my culture’s values, or by my values?
I took a chance, and I chose balance. I chose to rest. I chose to have fun. It was challenging to give myself permission to do these things. It took work to change my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. At times I had to grit my teeth to make a different choice than I had up to that point. It also didn't happen overnight. Just like I've had to train my physical body at the gym or on the track, I had to train my mental and emotional body to choose new thoughts and actions. It takes intention and attention to be the leader of our own life.
Fast-forward 10+ years, and I can tell you, it was the greatest choice I ever made. Life is not about working and paying your bills. Life is about enjoying every moment. Life is about feeling like your optimal self as often as possible.
If you are feeling burnt out, then leave your desk immediately. Psychosis is defined as: a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. I know a lot of people who work so hard they have lost contact with reality. They have lost their health, their friends, their families, and their dreams. So if you feel guilty about leaving your desk immediately, take a sick day. Take a psychosis day. Give yourself back to you.
Mindy Amita Aisling
ICF Life Coach,
NFPT Fitness Trainer,
OMA Certified Mediator
Mindy Aisling is a certified life and business coach in Bend, OR, exceeding all of the educational requirements & training set forth by the ICF.
She has worked with such organizations as St. Charles Hospital, Soroptimists, The Dispute Resolution Center, Olympic Medical Center, Americorps, and Juvenile and Family Services.
She has been featured in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Bend Bulletin, The Peninsula Daily News, KOMO 4 TV, The Oregonian and many more. You can learn more about Mindy here.
Mindy offers professional, affordable online coaching to clients around the world, and local coaching to clients in Bend, Oregon.
Licensed and Insured