“To say no to certain things, even if they are inherently good, is to protect the most important 'yes' in your life. Building margin and creating space to just be is not a given in our fast-paced and digitally plugged-in world.”
Our culture in America celebrates and values high strung workaholic tendencies. High production at a mass rate, whether in the service or product industry, is to be revered. Those who work the hardest and fastest, at the unseen cost of their health and well-being, are granted more time to work, to get paid more. Unfortunately, only a few ever pause to notice the correlation between the drive to work harder and faster with the lack of good sleep, or the onset of anxiety.
I recently read an eye-opening book written by Dr. Gabor Mate: When the Body Says No. Dr. Mate outlines several cases in which he was the palliative care doctor for people with terminal illnesses. Based on his research and assessments supported by other practices, he was able to define a personality profile common among individuals who would contract a chronic illness and cut their life short. Common traits included a tendency for being high strung, lack of boundaries when holding responsibility or caring for others, and the struggle to say no when needed.
My responsible nature and desire to help others has made the discipline of saying no a daily challenge. How do I separate my compassion from obligation? Both are key motivators but do not have to be one and the same. In college, I was met with one emotional breakdown each year due to overextending myself. Operating at 127% capacity, I was blind to my own sickness.
It wasn’t until I landed my first job in investment banking working 90+ hours a week, sleeping less than five hours each night and found my soul being sucked out of my being when I began to realize that my workaholic tendencies could actually kill me. I found myself asking was any amount of experience or dollar amount of money worth the crushing of one's soul or body?
During this period, my spirituality led me to the ancient practices of silence, solitude, and repetition. It was here that I began to hear my soul and body calling for another mode in my life. I found this self-awareness as a treasure and not a hindrance to my productivity and success. To say no to certain things, even if they are inherently good, is to protect the most important 'yes' in your life.
Building margin and creating space to just be is not a given in our fast-paced and digitally plugged-in world. Why? Because no one is going to lead you to it, no one is going to offer it to you. And no one is going to ensure that you cherish it. But when you taste a life within margin, you create space for your awareness of the richness of life to bring out the wonder. What sights, sounds, relationships and experiences can you now enter into this place of just being?
Increasing margin on a daily basis takes courage and requires ongoing practice. In future articles, I'll share with you some practices I have found helpful for creating space in my life. How do you build margin in your life? For all of us learning, be encouraged because we are all seeking out the path to a full life.