We are wired by society to be overachievers. So much so, that we now have to claim we are giving 110% as a mere 100% was apparently not sufficient enough. Our culture reminds us, demands of us, that we constantly up our game and take it to the next level as the social pressures cause us to desire the bigger house, faster car, newest tech gadget, corner office. Grow or die; Go big or go home. This is reinforced by the media, the barrage of ads inundating us daily and even our peer group, all rewarding our fragile egos to continuously strive for more.
Living life with the pedal to the metal can be enormously stressful as one never knows how to turn it off. Like a Ferrari, we are wound up and running on max RPM’s racing round ‘n round on a seemingly endless track. High performance is the goal as we just keep aggressively moving forward, pushing the boundaries and ignoring the common signals which lead to stress and health risk factors. Ultimately, it takes its toll physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and relationally as we succumb to a breakdown, rundown or just plain meltdown. Even the Ferrari spends more time in the repair shop than on the road (just ask any owner).
When we live within the margins, we learn how to be purposeful in prioritizing areas where excellence truly matters. It means taking the proverbial Ferrari out of fifth gear down a gear or two. If we are firing on all cylinders in the left lane of this highway called life, we will ultimately hit the wall. We need a certain amount of stress in our lives, but the law of diminishing return states that after a point, it ruins our ability to succeed. Life may just work best at 80 percent, realizing it is a marathon and not a sprint and therefore shifting from the left to middle lane on this highway of life. Still efficient, but now allows for a slow and steady progression with time for reflection and deep connections. We can still achieve excellence, but it is better aligned with our inner fulfillment and long term sustainability.
Easier said than done. How do we institute margins when our boss has deadlines or our family has demands on our time? It starts with self-awareness and being mindful that we need to create a boundary or guardrail to keep us from overcommitting to tasks or relationships. By establishing a buffer, these margins should be viewed in terms of time, space or items we add or limit in order to avoid being overwhelmed in our daily life. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed to push back; Buddhism states that to love oneself is the foundation for the ability to love others. You cannot be the best you can possibly be to the world if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Reflect on the areas of your life where you can take it down a notch. Take some pressure off by reminding yourself that you don’t necessarily need to compromise excellence for purpose. Seek better balance and down time to relax and recharge. Prioritize what is truly important to you and establish boundaries to allow yourself to live within margins. It may just keep your metaphorical Ferrari on the road a lot longer.