Have you ever wished you could make do with less sleep so that you could get more done in a day? Have you ever pushed yourself so hard at work that you have ended up unwell? Have you ever trained or exercised so hard that you have injured yourself? More significantly, do you find these, or similar behaviours and thoughts, a regular pattern in your life? If so, can I suggest that you stop and take a long hard look at what you are doing to yourself and why?
We live in a culture that relentlessly pushes against all kinds of boundaries. A world that tells us that we can and should live in an uninterrupted upward spiral of success and achievement. We are constantly told to compare ourselves to everyone else and to use the resultant envy or discontent to spur us on to more work, more study, more risk, more debt, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for competition and hard work and success. However, I have also come to realise that we all operate within certain limits, or ‘givens’ of our situation. I only have certain hours in the day. I need this much sleep. I only have this much intellectual processing power. I only earn this much money. I only have this much energy. I can get angry at these limits, I can fight against them, or I can come to accept and value them as a gift.
Embracing my limits, my ‘givenness’ as a gift is a path to emotional and spiritual freedom. I am me, and all I can do is succeed at being the best me. I am not Warren Buffett. I am not Jack Welch. I am not Rick Warren.
I find the practice of a Sabbath a helpful discipline to encourage me to embrace my limits in a healthy way. As Jews have done for thousands of years, one day in seven we need to say ‘no’ to work, to relentless striving, to competing. This voluntary imposition of a limit on our work sets us free to work hard the remaining six days, and also sets us free from the involuntary experience of our limits which come from burnout, bankruptcy or breakdown.
Does this mean that I won’t make as much money as I think I should? Quite possibly. Does this mean that I won’t reach the level of organisation influence and leadership I aspire to? Perhaps. But does this matter? Not really.