With that said, his column today strikes me as nothing short of miraculous. Someone writes in saying, "I'm so driven, but I always get sick from the stress. What should I do?" And, let's be honest, I identify with this. Always have, probably always will. But instead of tackling what in this person's history makes her feel so compelled to excel or why she constantly pushes herself, he offers grace and miraculous wisdom.
Dear Superwoman Some Days,
Here's a simple suggestion: Just dial it back 10 percent. Dial everything back 10 percent.
Give it a try. Just take 10 percent of what you're expending and save it. Rest up 10 percent more. Do 10 percent less work. Give your all -- minus 10 percent. Hold back 10 percent in reserve. Use that 10 percent to stay well.
If you're working 40 hours a week, take it down to 36. If you're sleeping seven hours a night, increase it to seven hours and 42 minutes. If you're studying 6 hours a day, decrease it to 5 hours and 24 minutes.
You're never going to stop the cycles. So the thing to do is allow cushions around the corners, around the extremes. Those points where you are completely exhausted and yet you keep pushing on are probably the points where you're breaking down. So if you can avoid those breaking points, you can perhaps live more comfortably.
There's nothing wrong with cyclical change. If you can't stop the cycles, you can at least try to ride them gracefully, with a minimum of injury. So accept the cycles. Accept that you are in motion . No one decision or action is going to change everything. It's flexibility and grace that will get you through.
You can't change the cyclical nature of things. But you can accept what's coming, and you can also change the speed of your own vehicle. [emphasis added]
If you want fewer errors and less rattle, you dial back the speed. When playing an instrument, pushing for speed brings more errors. For accuracy, you slow it down. Play the piece 10 percent slower. There is a realm where you can do certain things every once in a while but not consistently. Then there are things you can do pretty much every time. So if you're always pushing, then you're always in that realm of frequent failure. That's where you make errors and get hurt, when you're pushing.
And heck, if there's some chronic illness that keeps popping up, maybe you are in a state of chronic inflammation. I know that sounds weird, but before I got my cancer, I was reading about the connection between certain diseases and states of inflammation. Of course I do not understand the biology of it, but science seems to be saying that there is a connection between the kinds of inflammation that show up as such things as gum disease or joint pain and other more serious diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
So I was ignoring a chronic condition; I was ignoring pain; I was pushing myself to the limit without regard for my recuperative capacity. I was running myself to the edge over and over. And I finally broke the machine.
I'm healing now. I'm mending. My main job is just staying healthy. So I swim, I play music, I get enough rest. This is of course a subjective interpretation of disease, and I think we all ought to be careful about the limits of subjectivity. There is no substitute for science when it counts. But there is much we can do to stay well. So consider the chronic state of your body, and see if you can change it long-range, so that you are less stressed and more relaxed and more settled. Also, of course, pay attention to what you are eating. This junk-food bingeing cannot be doing you any good. Pay attention to what nutritionists say. Eat well. This will make a difference in how you feel.
It's kind of funny that with all the professionals in your life you would ask me, the cranky neighbor over the fence. My ideas are pretty intuitive, and of course these are only suggestions. But if they sound promising, try them out. As long as you continue to follow the professional advice of your doctors as well, making some commonsense adjustments to your workload can't hurt.
It's a simple idea but has wide application. Just dial it back 10 percent.
Did you catch that? "No one decision or action is going to change everything. It's flexibility and grace that will get you through." I so desperately needed to hear that today. I've been living in a crazy, non-existent, black-and-white world. No one decision or action will change everything -- good or bad. I can't wrestle with every single decision. All I can do is stake out my course, and be gracious and flexible with myself when it comes to the individual steps. You know when you're stepping off the course, so there's little danger that my entire journey will be derailed if I make one misstep. It may, however, be derailed if I am rigid and harsh towards myself. That is nothing short of an epiphany. As I have been told o'er and o'er, we have to trust ourselves to do what resonates and then trust that everything will be okay, regardless of how it is received.
The second part I emphasized is equally as important a lesson: "You can't change the cyclical nature of things. But you can accept what's coming, and you can also change the speed of your own vehicle." In other words, as Laura Munson always says, "Go slow." True change on either side takes time, and we must allow true healing to take place rather than demand a quick, soon-to-break fix. We have to approach what is ahead at the appropriate speed. And we must learn acceptance -- the essence of not wanting but of being unattached to the outcome while creating our own happiness. What a lesson! And what a beautiful, down-to-earth way in which he said it. I'm really touched by his words.
In fact, I'm grateful for and humbled by them. And isn't that the point of this?