Enough Is Enough: We Must Create Margins
This is a guest post by Andria Bicknell. Andria is a contributing writer and editor for Aspire. She writes about recovering from the effects of perfectionism on her own blog, Type A Plans B. Andria draws her leadership experience from ministry, business and home.
- Wes Saade, M.D.
I am absolutely exhausted.
I don’t think I can keep up at this pace much longer.
I’m tired. Really tired.
Does this sound like you, or someone you know? Even in the midst of outward success, you can inwardly find that you just don’t feel like yourself anymore.
Enough is Enough
Constantly feeling run down, irritable, or overwhelmed, are warning signs that should not be ignored. These are signals that your mind and body are sending out to let you know, you have reached your limits. Something has got to change.
As leaders in particular, we are highly motivated. We thrive on achievement, and challenging ourselves and our teams to take on more and more. We compete against ourselves, against each other, and against the clock. We resolve to do whatever it takes to get the job done right.
Whatever it takes. What is that for you? What are you willing to sacrifice? Exercise this week? Eating well? Maybe just a couple of hours of sleep each night? How about dinner with your family? Or, a glass of wine with your spouse?
These sacrifices may seem fairly harmless, considering all that’s on your plate. And in small doses, this is part of the ebb and flow of life, health, and relationships. But there is no denying that the long-term effects of an unsustainable lifestyle are killing us, mentally, physically, and relationally. Where do we draw the line? How much is too much? It is time to say: enough is enough.
We Must Create Margins
Remember in grade school…the empty white space on your notebook paper? We were expected to keep our handwriting between the red lines. The margins were to be kept clear of our work. Maybe I’m dating myself with notebook paper. How about typing in a Word document? There are standard one-inch margins. Have you ever adjusted them by just a point or two to squeeze everything onto one page? I have. And, you can pull that off every now and then. But, if you do that all the time, you develop a habit of constantly forcing everything to fit. It’s too much for the space it’s been given.
You must learn to respect the margins, the white space, the untouched parts of your page, your day, your week. Discipline yourself to let things spill over onto the next page, the next day, the next week, or to someone else you can rely on. Give yourself an inch to breathe.
We need margins in our lives for the basic acts of living. For rest, recreation, and relationships. For disconnecting, and for fun. We must find value again in taking care of ourselves, and connecting with the most important people in our lives. We require downtime. When did we begin adopting the concept that rest is a luxury? It’s not. Not for us, nor for the people that work with us and for us.
Value yourself. And value those in your circle of influence. We rob ourselves of connection, of peace, and of creativity when we impose unreasonable demands and expectations on our time. If you, or your staff, are overworked, then you are dangerously operating without margins. Hear me. You are not invincible. Your energy is not unlimited. You are not impervious to the effects of living without margins.
A Life Without Margins Is Going to Cost You Something
I know how you feel…like, even if it’s true, you don’t really have time to stop and think this through right now. You’re busy. I get it. I’ve been there. I recognized the value of creating margins, but by nature of the problem, I couldn’t seem to make time to do something about it. Basically, I was in survival mode. Important things kept spilling over into the margins of my life. As a result, I was always taking care of something “urgent.” There was little time left for relationships, rest or recreation. I was always “busy.” Busy is not a badge of honor to me anymore. It is a billboard-size sign of imbalance. A lifestyle of urgency is physiologically damaging. It is physically unhealthy and exhausting. To continue living that pace comes at a price.
Trying to manage an unsustainable lifestyle will begin showing up in your life in one way or another: in your relationships, health, productivity, creativity, and general quality of life. And tragically, as my friend, Ben Howard, experienced, a lack of margin—specifically, in the case of his family, a lack of sleep—can be a matter of life and death. Watch this clip from National Geographic:
In an instant, Ben lost most of his family forever, because someone was falling asleep behind the wheel. We’ve got to make some changes in how we view rest, in our American culture in particular.
Change Begins With a Shift in Our Values
I am calling you out on this right now. You are not super-human. Constantly feeling stretched, stressed, and at your breaking point is not “normal.” If you have been living this way so long that you have grown to accept it as routine, but you know you can’t keep this up, then you are positioned for a change. Here’s where to begin:
- Make a shift in your value system.
- Begin to value margin as much, if not more, than you esteem hard work, achievement, and promotion.
- Redefine the life you desire to live, and be prepared to defend it.
Contributing Writer, Aspire
I humbly extend my heartfelt appreciation to Ben Howard for imparting into my life this year, and for allowing me to share his story. Learn more about Ben’s story, and the way he has rebuilt his life following this unspeakable tragedy, from his book, Overcoming Life’s Trauma: Find Closure to the Abuse, Tragedies, and Suffering of Life. Or to connect with him for more resources and coaching, visit Ben S. Howard at www.benshoward.com.
For Further Reading: