You are very busy – I get it; I understand.
Being an adrenaline junkie myself, I know chaos. More importantly, I appreciate the difference between “exhilarating” chaos and “please God, make it stop!” chaos.
The latter is no fun. When you hit the point of being overwhelmed, under rested and out of control – you want to run away or quit. Adrenaline gives way to frustration; stress turns to despair; dreamers become victims.
What I’ve learned about your situation is this:
It isn’t the pace of your day that triggers stress.
It’s the reason for the pace.
Let me explain. If you are busy and overwhelmed without any more context than “I must keep my nose above water!” – you are on a treadmill. You are running as fast as you can, without the satisfaction of making progress.
Conversely, when equally busy and overwhelmed, BUT you know you’re moving toward a desired destination – you are on a Journey. Being on a Journey is a much different experience. The larger context (e.g., the desired destination) serves as a filter through which the stress feels much more manageable (albeit still challenging).
It is important to understand the difference so you can better manage your circumstances. If you find that you are caught on a treadmill, you must get off as soon as possible. If not, the speed keeps ramping up (and so too does the feeling of helplessness).
Before long – you are too afraid to jump off. You get to a point where you are convinced you simply have to hunker down and keep running (or something “bad” will happen). That is no way to go through life!
Let’s examine 4 primary differences between a treadmill and a journey. Use this to diagnosis your situation.
1. Treadmills have the same view – Journeys are always different
Pay attention to how you spend a typical week. Are you driving to work the same way, fighting similar fires, covering all too familiar ground? Do you find your routine to be “boring” or “energizing”? When your alarm goes off do you wonder what unique experiences await or do you feel the dread of another Ground Hog Day about to start?
2. Treadmills don’t move – Journeys are progressive
If you look back over the last year or two – can you see clear and consistent progress? Is your life/career better than it was two years ago? If so, do you know why – can you attribute the gains to specific actions you took?
3. Treadmills don’t have destinations – Journeys take you places
Think ahead two to four years – can you describe for me what your life will be like? Do you have a clear, compelling picture of the situation you are trying to build? Can you link for me that which you are doing this year and how it contributes to the picture in your head?
4. Treadmills exhaust you – Journeys tend to excite
What sounds more exciting – a five mile run on your treadmill or a 5 mile run with friends during a fund raising event. Even if you hate to run – that is an easy question. At the end of your day – does your exhaustion feel satisfying or deflating? When the alarm goes off do the demands of the day intrigue you or depress you? How you feel after exerting the energy/effort is the key here.
I’m not one of those who tell you to “slow down” or “lower your expectations.” I’ll tell you to go as hard and fast as you want. However, you MUST be on a Journey – don’t waste the energy and effort on a treadmill!
- Examine the following areas of your life: Your Job; Your Evenings: Your Weekends.
- Rate each on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being completely “Journey-Driven” and 1 being completely “Treadmill Bound“
- If you score a 5 or below – create a set of desired deliverables or destinations to build a Journey.