If you’re anything like me, the recent Olympic extravaganza has been a little much. Even the commercials in between the sporting events are all about non-stop striving, constant sacrifice and rippling, youthful bodies. What's a middle aged moody pinata to do with all this aggressive, high pressure go-getting?
Fight back is what and I've recently cajoled some hyper-intense, motivational sayings into calming down a bit and encouraged them to take a little time for themselves. It wasn't easy, but after a lot of bubble baths, shoulder rubs and guided meditations the motivational sayings finally started to relax. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the nice chats we had while walking on the beach.
Here's what I learned from them.
Motivational sayings mean well, they really do, but sometimes they just get it very wrong. You’ll be walking down the street on a beautiful Sunday morning when you see some ripped CrossFit guy in a “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” T-shirt. Suddenly you feel like you should be working out, finishing next week’s presentation and curing cancer all at once. Maybe you’re wasting your time enjoying the sunshine and thinking about what kind of bagel you want? One minute you’re starting to relax and feel pretty good and then “Wham!”, a motivational saying reminds you that you should be pushing, pushing, pushing! “You can sleep when you’re dead,” right?
Our culture in general does not encourage relaxing or ever taking a break from the “Just do it!” mentality. Consider the following statistics about how we feel about work:
- Almost all of us (80%) feel stressed at work, while 40% of us feel very or extremely stressed
- 25% felt like screaming or shouting due to this stress
- 14% felt so stressed they had thought about (but refrained from) striking a co-worker
- More than half of workers admitted to wanting help to deal with their stress
The dominant corporate culture of always pushing and rarely getting enough time for relaxing and recovering is a serious problem. And many very capable people struggle with it. Despite studies and anecdotal evidence showing that giving ourselves a break makes us more productive, creative and healthy, it can be difficult to resist the cultural norms of constant performance and competition.
It’s time to create weekend versions of motivational sayings. Ones that look good in sweatpants and don’t mind slowing down to do a little leisurely TV binge watching or walking in the park. Try these new and improved mindful versions of common inspirational sayings to help you slow down and make the right choices for yourself.
Original saying: Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Modified saying: Can stop, will stop.
Blindly charging at your goals like a bull in a business suit screaming, “Can’t stop, won’t stop.” is unlikely to get you where you want to go. Here’s a better approach: Stop every once in awhile to figure out if what you’re doing is actually working, if you’re still interested in your original goals and if you just need a break.
Original saying: Just do it.
Modified saying: Just do it (when you’re ready).
You must be familiar with this classic Nike catchphrase that showed sinewy athletes flying through the air toward Olympic victory. What the commercials didn’t show is all the suckers who put in just as much work and weren’t standing on the platform. The moral of the story is figure out what you love and what you’re good, and then “Just do it.”
Original saying: There’s no “I” in team.
Modified saying: There’s no “I” in team, but there is if you are treating me badly.
Team dynamics are complicated. Power grabs, bullying, work dumps, show boaters and all manner of shenanigans can happen. Don’t give your all and then some unless everyone else is just as invested and playing fair.
Original saying: Never give up.
Modified saying: Sometimes give up.
And that’s okay. It’s not a popular sentiment, but sometimes giving up is the best thing you can do. Maybe you’re in the wrong job, city or relationship, and you’ve tried lots of different things to make it work. Sometimes quitting and doing something entirely different is really the best answer. You’re quitting that unhealthy situation, but you’re not quitting on yourself.
Original saying: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Modified saying: If at first you don’t succeed, try a different way, then try another way.
There is nothing wrong with trying again, especially if you’ve learned from your mistakes and are trying something a little differently. But you can’t keep banging your head against the wall using the same old way and expect to eventually succeed.
Original saying: Do one thing every day that scares you.
Modified saying: Do one thing every other day that scares you.
For many people constantly pushing themselves out of their comfort zones leads to stress, anxiety and even depression. Taking risks and pushing your boundaries is important, but do it in a way that respects your nervous system. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to recharge your batteries and taking care of yourself between risky leaps. Before you automatically jump into another battle, make sure you’ve stockpiled the energy and resilience you’ll need to see it through.
So the next time you’re feeling stretched thin and pushed too far, take a deep breath and a think of a mindful, modified motivational saying. Also, try sleeping while you’re alive. It’s way more effective. And feels really good.
A version of this posting first appeared on Whil.com