It's amazing to look over the writing I've done since the beginning of this year, and to witness the patterns that unfold from within. In observing the writing, I recognize that it is the one new routine that I've been able to maintain this year. I'd like to take this same energy and apply it elsewhere in my life, but I can't apply it without first examining and understanding what I've done differently with this task. It's taken a little pressure to get me to this realization, however.
Today I had another session with my career coach, and I opened the call, exasperated, recognizing that I've been up to my old, self-destructive tricks:
- Working too much for very little personal, and emotional gain.
- Prioritizing tasks that were ultimately more draining than rewarding.
- Not making time and space for self care on a daily basis.
- Ignoring the symptoms of burnout and pushing through anyway.
- Watching the quality of my work and interactions deteriorate.
- Punishing myself by isolating from the people and experiences I value.
My coach listened very carefully, and, reminded me that we had in fact discussed this issue before. I am a person of cycles, and when I burnout, it takes much longer for me to recover. I'm very impressed with how well she was able to understand and distill my patterns. But it made me look more closely at the routines I've enabled in my life by passively accepting everything that has come my way without understanding that even good things have consequences.
I've been reading, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It's kind of funny that I started reading it because someone recommended it to my manager, who in turn asked if anyone else wanted to read it. Another clear example of saying no. In this case, it's been worthwhile. The main themes of the book are beginning to resonate on some subconscious level. I've only just started it, but one thing the author makes abundantly clear is that determining what is essential requires that we take time to deliberate on our choices, rather than make choices reactively. This is something I've seen echoed in The Bullet Journal Method and countless other self-help books. It's easy enough to read the books, but it's harder to put them into practice.
Maybe I don't have to think of it as this momentous task. Maybe I can start small. A product manager told me at work, I can start by buying myself a little time: "let me think about it." I balked a little at this advice initially. I'm not the most patient person, and I hate hearing "let me think about it." I usually take it to mean that the individual is noncommittal, indecisive, or afraid to say no. While I can certainly draw up plenty of supporting evidence, to support this, I recognize that this is the kind of leaping to conclusions that leads to misery. Maybe all of those things are true, or maybe they will actually think about it and get back to me. I don't have to preoccupy myself with their decision, or follow the example of less reliable people.
What I am realizing in this instant is that I've been revisiting the same messages over and over again in various forms. I believe I will go through this cycle up until the moment I decide to accept and learn the lesson I am meant to from this, and actively change the behavior. My biggest takeaway is that I need to establish new mindsets and routines around self-care. As my career coach explained, I have internalized the notion that self-care is self-indulgent and therefore not a worthy investment of my time. I enjoy work because, in theory, I will be rewarded for it. Yet I can see the writing's on the wall; I can only do so much, and hustle can and does hurt. It's not just ok to rest; it is necessary, for life and happiness, above all. Without that baseline, there can be no success.