It was Monday evening, Memorial Day Weekend, and I sat at my computer, face to face with my old demons.
I realized, bleary-eyed and making typos by the handful as I typed, that I could no longer think. I had wasted my holiday weekend — working.
Oh, I slept late each morning. I also went out to dinner, and watched some TV, and hung out with some friends. I even played and went shopping. But I also saw some clients, and worked on pressing projects. And at the end of the weekend, the projects were still pressing. In fact, I didn’t feel like I had accomplished much. And I was exhausted.
I’ve been a hard worker, and even a workaholic, my whole life. I like to work. I like to help people. I like to be creative and work on projects that make a big contribution “downstream.” I LOVE the rush of energy when I am on a roll, and cranking out the ideas, the deliverables, crossing items off the list. I easily forget the time I spend spinning my wheels, waiting for an idea, and overcoming my natural intertia. And so, work is a great pleasure for me. My demons were not whining, “You work so hard. You work when nobody else is working. Nobody appreciates you.” No, the demons were far, far worse. They said, “Everyone appreciates you. You’re doing so much! And so well. You have chosen this. Want some more?”
The irony was not lost on me, as last Tuesday evening I taught a workshop at Houston’s Jung Center entitled, “The Wisdom of Doing Less.” OUCH! I shared my recent experience with the group, and received smiles of recognition and acceptance. I was indeed one of them — not an authority or expert, and so not someone who would judge them. We’re all just doing the best we can — sometimes, better than the best we can — and we all can benefit from a little moderation now and then.
Moshe Feldenkrais devised his ingenious and eponymous Method during a search for recovery from his own crippling knee injuries. The story goes that the original injury happened during a simple, after-work, pick-up soccer game. What made him strive, and risk, and behave foolishly — when it didn’t matter at all? Thus began his exploration of biomechanics and anatomy, as well as his explorations of ego, anxiety, and the human condition. The primary question raised might be: how can you do the things you enjoy doing, at the level of accomplishment that you desire — and live to tell about it, none the worse for wear?
The Feldenkrais Method helps me to streamline my efforts: to work smarter, not just harder. I look for creative and simple solutions when previously my love of complexity would have gotten me feeling lost and depressed. I move with less pain, more grace, and greater confidence — and often, I am able to take the metaphors from movement into other aspects of my life.
One thing that has helped me (when I remember it!) is to acknowledge and work with my own rhythm and pace. I am much more effective, and do more creative, imaginative, and compassionate work, if I see four or five clients a day for four days — rather than four clients on five days. That’s the reason that I (usually) don’t see people on Fridays! I ideally pace my work load so that I am a “people person” four days of the week, have a day of solitary pursuits, and then rest up to do it all again. I’m not perfect in my execution, but as I come closer to the ideal, my clients are the ones who benefit most. Perhaps you can find a way to schedule your priority work tasks when you are at the top of your game. Perhaps there are ways to evaluate the priorities overall.
When I’m in tune with my Feldenkrais practice, I remember that my choices aren’t limited to “either” and “or.” I don’t have to succumb to the fear that I’ll never catch up (whatever that means), or that I’ll become a huge slacker if I allow myself an extra breath. I can make more dynamic choices. Instead of frittering away my time and attention on things that don’t matter, I can let go of the small stuff, and spend my best efforts on the things that really matter. I need continuing reminders about how to do this. Luckily, teaching Awareness Through Movement classes each week helps to keep me in touch. It’s in those moments of doing too much that I can become aware of it. I can recalibrate my effort and energies so that intelligence, effectiveness, and pleasure in the doing are my major goals. You can, too!
For a humorous solution for workaholics, visit the website for the International Institute for Not Doing Much, at www.SlowDownNow.org .