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Where Have All the Slouches Gone?
J. B. Wood
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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I can't imagine where all of the slouches have gone.

Almost everyone I know these days is obsessed with their personal productivity and performance. Whether it's hitting a profit target, or getting more page views on a blog, or just making ends meet, I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses—hyper-responsible and ambitious souls—driven by some looming pressure to deliver results and add value.

You can practically hear the value-added theme music playing in the wake of their paths.

Which is all well and good, except that I have found myself habitually conforming to this performance grid in my head which says, "More! Not enough! Keep pushing!" It's like I can't stop for one nanosecond just to allow myself to take a deep breath.

And let's be honest—this can get carried away. Instead of coming home at a decent hour to spend time with the family for dinner, followed by a quiet sitting by the fire in an overstuffed chair listening to classical guitar music, we convince ourselves that staying at the office to finish off those last couple of spreadsheets is the better choice. As if the work we are doing will prevent the earth from spinning off its axis.

I worry we are losing perspective.

A friend of mine frequently attends evening meetings that may go until 11 p.m. Then he insists on dragging himself out of bed at the crack of dawn the next morning in order to get to work at the "normal" time. God forbid that he makes up for it on the other end and comes into work an hour later than usual! But really, would that be such a bad thing? No, but the hamster in our mind won't hear of it.

We are pushing ourselves so hard, like we have to know everything and be everywhere, and we don't know when or how to stop. Yet we are loathe to give ourselves permission to be off the hook, for fear of lost productivity, or slipping behind, or just looking bad.

Esther Sternberg, in her book The Balance Within, talks about the mounting scientific biomedical evidence that links the care of our spiritual selves with the health of our bodies. She says we must stop and take care of our spirit in order to maintain our overall health and productivity, to avoid chronic disease, depression, and burnout.

Listen, I know you are all working very hard. But I am here to tell you: it is enough.

Sometimes all we need is a little reminder, a sort of self-permission slip that allows us to take care of ourselves. So here you go.

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