I get a lot of feedback for my recent posts about living slowly and not pushing yourself to be productive all the time. People send personal breakdown stories, and talk about their struggle of pushing themselves just a little bit too hard sometimes.
The truth is, we are all guilty of it.
As I get more mature and try more things (and become successful in some), I start to realize more and more that pushing yourself is almost never the answer. Of course, there are moments when you need discipline. After all, as entrepreneurs and writer, we are in the business of achieving and creating something new.
But more often than not, just letting things go and taking it slowly is a far better approach.
Here is what happens if you push yourself too hard on achieving your goals.
Your motivation is flawed.
There are two types of motivation: extrinsic (rewards, status, money) and intrinsic (love, fulfillment, creativity, satisfaction). Whenever you push yourself in your business, project or fitness regimen, you tell yourself to wait just a little bit, and then you’ll be rewarded.
This is toxic.
If you’re motivated by external rewards only, there won’t ever be a time when you’ve had enough. Being motivated by money (and any other kind of external reward) is a mental trick — you think you want it, but it’s never enough.
You are doing it all for the wrong reasons.
Real motivation should come from the inside, because you want to do something good in the world, because you can’t NOT do whatever it is you’re trying to do.
Real motivation is about enjoying the process of doing, not existing for the sake of getting something at the end.
There’ll be no end. It’s a lie.
When you push yourself (only) on discipline, you’ll run out of energy.
You’ve got energy — that’s your fuel. That’s what keeps you going. And then you’ve got discipline — that’s what burns your fuel. That’s your engine, if we continue the car analogy.
And whenever you run on discipline only, all you do is burn your fuel. In time, you’ll run out and deplete your tank.
You’ll burn out.
When I was working on my first business, I wasn’t really interested in what I was doing. I was working for the money. I was only motivated by external things, and I needed discipline to keep myself working.
At the end of the working day, I felt exhausted. Eventually, I suffered a couple of weeks of ongoing panic attacks — my body revolted against my head imposing so much discipline on it.
Talk about sustainability.
When I write, on the other hand, I don’t need to be motivated. I don’t need to watch GaryVee, I don’t need affirmations or inspirational quotes. Heck, I don’t even read other people’s stuff and I don’t get jealous of other writers’ success.
I just write because I like it.
It can be hard at times, but I don’t need to be disciplined to do it. I want to do it.
The takeaway here is to pick something you don’t need to discipline yourself for. That’s way, you’ll not be burning energy, and you’ll always have your tank full.
Which brings me to my next point.
If you have to push yourself, you are probably in the wrong career.
Again, when you do something you really love, your motivation is intrinsic and you don’t need new information, new sources of inspiration and meditate all day just to keep yourself going.
You love what you’re doing and so you do it as much as possible. It’s simple.
Very few people take the time to analyze their emotions and feelings towards a certain activity. But self-awareness is key if you want to understand yourself and be happy.
When you start doing something today, take the time to analyze how you feel.
- Does this particular activity give you energy, or does it take it away from you?
- Do you feel excited or do you feel exhausted?
The important part though, is to notice how you feel afterwards. Writing can be very stressful for me — especially if I have to writer a long piece with a lot of research. But it’s how I feel afterwards inside that counts.
And I usually feel amazing after a good day’s work.
Whenever I do something boring or stupid, like creating Excel spreadsheets, not only do I get bored in the process, but I end up feeling more exhausted by the end then when I first started. It reminds me of how tired I was after my 9–5 job a few years back, even though I didn’t get much done.
Pay attention to how the activity makes you feel after it’s completion. Fatigue and exhaustion are signs that you’re doing something wrong.
Maybe it’s time to change something?
Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success.
It’s not my quote, I actually learned this from Arianna Huffington and I love it. You don’t have to push yourself to exhaustion simply because you want to succeed.
In fact, if you want to achieve focus, restoring your body and mind is key.
I have something I call the ‘shut down ritual’. I usually work for long uninterrupted periods of time (deep work) and whenever I am done, man, I am DONE!
I don’t sneak and do tiny bits of work in the evenings. I don’t think about work. I don’t check my email 3 times per hour. I disconnect completely.
This unplugging is very beneficial when it comes to productivity, focus and happiness, to be honest. There is much more to life than your career, and disconnecting after a good day’s work will actually make you more productive the next day.
Have a shut down ritual. Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success.
Let it happen organically.
I don’t believe in pushing yourself too hard. I don’t really believe in conscious efforts. Instead, I believe in positioning yourself to succeed by finding what you are really passionate about, so that you don’t have to push yourself.
I believe in success happening organically.
I have a friend who works 14 hours per day and is constantly exhausted. I also have a friend who can make one call and make a $100k+ deal. Both of them are successful.
But who’s more happy?
There are no rules to becoming successful and there are no rules to work. Everybody lives the life they really want. If you like pushing yourself to the limits, that’s fine. I like doing that in sport.
In life though, I like to enjoy my working life as much as I enjoy everything else. And I just want to say that you don’t have to have panic attacks and push yourself to exhaustion just because you want (need) to hit some random goal.
It’s just not worth it. Take care of yourself.
Thanks for reading! :)