We all benefit from a bit of self-discipline in our lives. Making sure we go to bed on time, get enough sleep, don’t eat too much, don’t spend too much money, etc. are all disciplines that can be of benefit to us. But like all things, discipline can be taken too far. If we become obsessive about the details and severely limit our freedom to deviate then we are in danger of destroying our health. It is an old piece of wisdom that says “moderation in all things” but it is true. We can be too bad but it is also possible to be too good – meaning too strict, and too unforgiving of ourselves. If we won’t give ourselves a break, what does that mean for the others in our life? There are people in the world who live very disciplined lives and people look at them in awe. But is this really who we should admire? Wouldn’t it be better to to admire those who have managed to find the sweet spot and are walking right down the middle in a place of balance? We should look out for these people. They probably are not famous but they must be there even if their efforts are imperfect.
We live in a world that often values extremes. We admire super thin models, super rich business men, super fast athletes, and super smart academics. Trying to emulate those who live in these narrow bands of extreme life experience can be very unhealthy and detrimental to our happiness. People who live at the extremes often have genetic or environmental advantages that we can never match. This does not make our potential or contribution to the world less valuable. We definitely thrive in environments where we have good habits that support our needs both physically and mentally on a regular basis. People often respond positively to a healthy routine. We should be aware of those habits that make us feel healthy and those that do not. We should try to ensure that the things that support our health and well-being are given priority over everything else. All of us want to accomplish a lot in our day but we have to accept our limitations and not regularly push past what is reasonable. This would be counterproductive and in some cases could be downright dangerous. Our minds do not have total control over our bodies and when we use our minds to try and push our bodies further and harder than they are capable, there is always a cost. It is ok not to be perfect. You are valuable as you are and while you should certainly always try to do better for yourself, you are good enough as you are. You do not need to prove or justify yourself to anyone but yourself.
Being “too good” can also prevent us from being open to what life might hold if we let go of total control of every detail. Sometimes we cannot imagine what could await us because we are so busy planning all the detail of exactly what we want that we then miss an excellent opportunity not on what we perceive to be our “critical path”. Our ideas for ourselves are often not derived from the things that suit us best or that are our strength. Humans often aspire to be the thing that they are not rather than finding and focusing on what we can do well. The unfortunate reality for us as a species is that we are still very survival focused and many of the things that people can excel at don’t pay the bills. So people often find themselves having to adapt and push themselves in areas where they have less ability in order to survive. It is unlikely that this situation will change but we should still focus on figuring out the things we are good at and actively try to incorporate these into our lives. It is also possible to sometimes incorporate aspects of the things we enjoy into our “survival jobs” that can in many cases enhance our work. A keen and talented gardener could tend a selection of plants in the office for example.
How do we know that we are achieving the right balance? As always, I suggest that we choose silence regularly to reconnect with how we are doing and adjusting our life choices to make sure that we are able to thrive without pushing ourselves too hard or judging ourselves too harshly.