Without occasionally pushing yourself to the limit, you will never know how far you can go or what you might achieve. We often surprise ourselves when we push beyond our expectations to a place we didn’t think we could go.
Working with intensity and urgency past the point of exhaustion sometimes produces extraordinary outcomes. So, we push ourselves to the limit and beyond to see what magic we might create.
Doing so too often, however, can result in stress-related symptoms and burnout. Similar to exercise addiction where athletes become hooked on the endorphins generated by extreme workouts, leaders can become addicted to constantly pushing themselves to the edge, fending off sleep, and working non-stop on a problem or project.
Over time, pushing yourself repeatedly creates both stress and the negative baggage that comes with it. Trouble sleeping, irritability, mood swings, forgetfulness, and a sense of apathy when not working are all common consequences.
The most productive leaders know they can go all-out only so often and for a limited time. They come up for air. They have a pressure relief valve that gives them the release necessary to recover and prepare for the next full push.
Here’s the counter-intuitive surprise. The best leaders relax by finding something intense to do. You read that right. For those who push themselves, sometimes too far, a hobby or activity that requires complete attention and sensory focus allows them to disengage and recharge.
By requiring all of your mental focus, this activity allows your mind to breathe and gives you the room you need to release any unhealthy tension and pressure. Composing music, sailing a boat, writing prose, scuba-diving, watching or editing film, woodworking, racquet sports, flying an airplane, running or cycling long distances, welding, cooking, playing video games, hitting in a batting cage, rock climbing, to name a few. These activities require all of you, and that relieves the stress of overworking.
Anything outside of your work that takes all of your attention for periods of time is a winner. Find a distraction so absorbing that everything about your daily tasks and work disappears. Schedule to engage in this activity on a regular basis. This is how people who push themselves avoid over-stressing and getting stale. Skydiving, anyone?