(Photo Credit: Joshua Earle)

Give it a Rest. Put it Away. Tomorrow’s a New Day.

Give your life the attention it needs before it demands it.

What did you set out for yourself to accomplish in 2016? I have my list, and I’m sure if you’re an ambitious individual who doesn’t want to waste the year, you have yours as well.

Every year, aside from creating new career goals, I enjoy the challenge of starting new disciplines. The method used in the pursuit of any discipline has corollaries you can use in the pursuit of other aspects of life. Thus, the more we improve through learning a new discipline, the more we improve at life; including work and business.

However, disciplines, just like business, require a concerted and dedicated effort in order to achieve progress and success. I’m sure that many of you, who have committed yourself to learning or achieving something new this year, have already encountered this kind of work and the focus it demands.

For 2016, the new discipline I decided to undertake for the year was writing. Writing, I’m finding, is an incredibly worthwhile pursuit. Why? Well, it actually causes a person to take all of the unconnected, but related, thoughts in their head and make them coherent in order to actually communicate something that others can understand. As an aside, if you haven’t tried to do this before, I recommend that you do; at least once.

With the few pieces, I’ve already written, I’m finding myself incredibly captivated with the process. I find inspiration, daily, as experiences and interactions with people cause me to think critically about life and how ideas impact it. With Evernote at the ready, I log every single idea; adding new points, as they develop in my mind, that I think are worthwhile to share. Not only am I writing more, I’m reading more, as I now find myself involved in a bigger community of people who are also sharing what they have to say by writing.

For a creative person, it’s an incredibly exhilarating and captivating experience. That’s when it starts getting dangerous.

That’s right, I said “dangerous”. I can already imagine the reactions:

“What do you mean by that? Isn’t that what you want; to find something you’re passionate about that’s worth doing? Why would you ever want to stop that momentum?

The answer to those questions is simple: there are more important things in life.

What’s more important than the passion for your work? The answer to that is also simple: other people.

The people in your life that give you inspiration for your work, or, that you’re working to provide for are just as, or more, important than the work itself. Those people are your family, your friends, your church, the little league team you coach, etc.

Not only are other people a priority, but there’s also another person that needs consideration: you. What are you denying yourself because of your blinding pursuit of work? Your health? Your growth? Your finances?

So the question follows: how well are you doing at the work of tending to people, your relationships, as you pursue the things that motivate you in your life?

The important things in life, that give meaning to our work, are easily blind-sided whenever our passion for a new pursuit spills over into the time we should be spending on them. What we, often, fail to see is that the price of this neglect ends up costing all of the motivation and inspiration that drives our pursuit in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Well, consider this for a moment. How productive and passionate do you think you’d be about your work, tomorrow, if you found that your spouse is ready to call it quits and divorce you? Or, how about finding out you’re on the verge of serious health problems because you keep pushing off the gym and eating healthy? What about finding out your house is going to be foreclosed on? How focused and motivated would you be then? I doubt you’d be productive at all.

Life has a way of demanding your attention if you keep it fixated constantly on something else.

You need to guard your time and the amount of it you spend on whatever inspires you, to make sure the important, and often overlooked, areas of your life get the attention they need. Here are a couple of things to consider to help you in that effort.

First, we need to bridle our passion, as motivating as it is, and timebox our pursuits just like every other aspect of our lives. This is a hard one to consider because, as I’ve found with writing, inspiration isn’t a faucet we can turn on-and-off. Rather, you have to take advantage of it when it comes.

However, if passion and inspiration aren’t moderated, they run the awful risk of becoming burnout and exhaustion quickly. This is something we almost never consider because when we’re excited about something we just want to continue doing it. But, give yourself something to be excited about for the next day. Get creative and schedule the things you want to get done throughout the week so each day has its share of the passion you need to motivate your work.

Second, we need to put away the fear we have of the consequences of what will happen if we stop working. Sometimes our over-commitment to work comes from being incredibly excited about what we’re producing. Sometimes, it comes from the fear that if we don’t get it done, we’ll somehow fail to achieve what we intend.

Missing out on opportunity is an important thing to consider and, sometimes, we need to do whatever it takes to capitalize on it. However, that needs to be balanced with considering the cost of continuing to neglect the other priorities we sacrifice because of the fear we have of missing out. Unfortunately, life is about trade-offs and sometimes there’s no easy solution. But, if we consider the personal cost, it’ll make it easier to pass up on the current opportunity, as painful as it may be, as we patiently wait for the next.

Life has seasons. Sometimes it calls for us to work more than we have to. When that comes, it’s perfectly reasonable to commit ourselves to the task and let our loved ones know that we have work to get done. However, if the pattern of your life has you continuing to work at the expense of other, more important, things then it’s time to close-up shop, give your mind and body rest, and give your relationships the presence they need.

There will always be work to be done and tomorrow is a great day for it.


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Originally published at the-sum-of-all-parts.ghost.io on February 24, 2016.