I’m a chronic overachiever. A perfectionist. I pride myself in my ability to give 110% in ~most~ of the things I do (even if self-prescribed). When asked about my strengths, I oftentimes find myself pointing out this idea in perfectionism that I will work harder than those around me which ripples itself in a variety of ways throughout my daily life.
When asked about my hobbies, I look to weightlifting–a hobby that I perform 6 days a week. One that I feel guilty about when I don’t participate in it. Professionally, I could not begin to count the amount of times I have sacrificed sleep in order to get more tasks done or acquire knowledge that I may regurgitate onto an exam the next day. Many times, I view leisure activities as a ‘waste of time’ as one could argue that the hours could be better spent on refining my skills to seem more attractive to future employers.
Perhaps you find yourself in this thought loop where your brain justifies these thought patterns because you view it as competitive. But, here’s the thing that you, and I, need to hear the most:
IT IS UNHEALTHY.
No matter the amount of evidence that could be used as an argument towards the approach of life in this way; it will not change the fact that this thought process is toxic and sows the seeds of unhappiness early in our lives. Within recent months, I have decided to take on a new ideology motion through the demands and responsibilities of mortal life and that is:
To listen to my body.
I apply this concept broadly within my life. When approaching physical activity, it doesn’t mean I am constantly skipping days in the gym if I don’t feel like going because this would be counterintuitive to my goals.
I want to be healthy. I want to be fit. But that should not come at the cost of needless stress placed on myself to hit certain benchmarks. This simply means I become more in-tune with the way my body feels before, during, and after my workouts.
I focus less on the number on the scale or the amount of weight on each side of the barbell. I simply monitor my mind to muscle connection. If my chest is sore or fatigued on my scheduled “push-day” workout, I will substitute variations of a pull-focused workout within my regiment. If I don’t feel particularly strong one day, I will lower the weight and focus on the eccentric movements within each repetition.
I don’t simply brute force myself through a workout because I feel like I need to. I listen to what my body tells me. This has not only allowed me to feel more confident in myself but has allowed me to find more joy in my workout routine.
This principle applies in my work as well. If I am tired, instead of hyping myself up on caffeine to stay up an extra 3-5 hours, I take this as a sign that I should go to bed early, get a good night’s rest, and have an early start the next day. If I don’t feel particularly attuned to my studies, it may be a sign that I need to take a break. I’ll carve out time to organize my space, watch an episode of my favorite Netflix show, or simply take a 15-minute nap.
Holding yourself to such a high standard with no room for faults will ultimately result in burn-out. I view my social time as a needed break from my studies and an opportunity to create lifelong bonds with my roommates.
This realization and subsequent action arose from recognizing that your most valuable asset is yourself. You wouldn’t push your car to run 100,000 miles past its need for an oil change. This will result in a variety of issues that require way more money and time than if you had simply taken the time to get an oil change when the issue arose. I view my body in a similar manner. We are human. We need maintenance, and we need to listen to our inner workings to ensure that we can continue operating at a high capacity.
But, even aside from this fact
of high performance, our life is meant to be enjoyed. Compounding stress will only leave you less present in the moment. By becoming more attentive to your needs on an instance basis, you will be able to act reactively rather than constantly proactively.
And maybe that’s the true essence of it all. To recognize that life is unpredictable. We can plan all we want–outlining each specific action that will increase the probability of a future outcome. But where is the beauty in that? I now like to think that I live each day more enveloped within my activities and with a healthier mindset than before. I listen to my body and my body thanks me for that.