If you could once make up your mind never undertake more work than you can carry on calmly, quietly, without hurry or flurry. . . . and if the instant you feel yourself growing nervous and out of breath, you would stop and take a breath, you would find this simple common-sense rule doing for you
what no prayers or tears could ever accomplish. -Elizabeth Prentiss
Two simple strategies–that’s all that Elizabeth offers here. How powerful these strategies can be, though! How great it would be to be able to make ourselves the promise to follow these strategies faithfully, and then actually do so! What would my life be like if I never committed myself to do more than I’m able to do without losing my peace of mind? How would I feel if I were able to stop and take a deep breath every time I needed to?
It’s unfortunate that there are so many role models in our society who take on much more than they’re truly able to accomplish without losing their peace of mind or without becoming super stressed. And not only do they stress themselves out, but they often expect other people to live up to their particular standards of performance, no matter how unhealthy they may be, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
How many young people are bullied into working 50- or 60-hours a week by a boss who doesn’t know the first thing about balance or about healthy work habits? These young people often fall into the trap of thinking that it’s normal to work so much, and they don’t even realize how much of life they’re missing by devoting themselves to their profession. How many people get pressured into volunteering much more time and effort than they truly can afford, only to have their relationships and families suffer from their lack of balance?
It takes a firm decision not to overextend ourselves. We must keep our eyes open and our minds clear so that we can see when we’re hurting ourselves and those we love. Our lives are far too short to spend in a hurry and flurry, but unless we keep our awareness levels very high, we’ll spend plenty of time being stressed instead of at peace, which is where we should always be.
Questions to consider:
How often do you overextend or over-commit yourself?
How does it affect you?
Can you think of a role model you know who is constantly overcommitted? What’s that person’s life like?
Is it a life you’d like to live?
What kind of steps can you take to ensure that you always seek balance in your responsibilities and commitments?
For further thought:
We are in such haste to be doing, to be writing, to be gathering gear, to make our voice audible a moment in the derisive silence of eternity, that we forget one thing, of which these are but the parts—namely, to live. We fall in love, we drink hard, we run to and fro upon the earth like frightened sheep. And now you are to ask yourself if, when all is done, you would not have been better to sit by the fire at home and be happy thinking. To sit still and contemplate . . . is this not to know both wisdom and virtue, and to dwell with happiness?