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Good Pressure vs Bad Pressure: The Importance of Recognizing the Difference

Finding a balance between peace and pressure, health and hustle is a challenge. I’m very much an “all or nothing” kind of person? it’s very difficult for me to do anything half-measured. I prefer to throw myself wholeheartedly into one specific intention, so it’s taken some time for me to figure out what balance means to me and put it into terms that make sense enough for me to execute.

One big breakthrough was identifying the different kinds of pressure that exist. I know I want to make big changes in my life. I know I want to reach the goals I have set for my career, to continue growing as a person, and to push myself creatively. Wanting to elevate our lives and ourselves keeps us from becoming stagnant. That IS life, ever moving and evolving.

That’s where the good kind of pressure comes from. It’s the kind you apply when you want to write a book and decide to get up an extra hour earlier every day to make time for it. It’s when you decide to do a workout even though you don’t feel like it because you know it will make you stronger and healthier. It’s when you take responsibility and apologize to someone you’ve wronged even though your pride is fighting you every step of the way.

But that sense of commitment to bettering ourselves can easily mutate that into something ugly when we start applying that pressure in the wrong places. When we compare ourselves to other people and let it degrade rather than inspire us. When we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves to be working every moment of every day and beat ourselves up if we don’t get to everything on our to-do list. When we think we have to be everything to everyone, all the time, and anything less is a failure.

The next time you feel like you need to push yourself, ask, “Is this the good kind of pressure or the bad kind of pressure?” Kind of like Glenda. Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Be honest with yourself.

Answer the way you would answer a friend. Honestly, but with kindness.

How to Identify the Type of Pressure

Good pressure will make you feel EXPANSIVE. It will energize you. Even if you’re physically tired after a long day, your soul feels enlivened, free, and at peace with the journey.

Bad pressure will make your soul feel heavy. You’ll feel a sense of restriction and tightness, like you’re trapped; but like quicksand, the more you try to claw yourself free, the worse your situation seems to get. It feels like you are running after a train you will never be able to catch up with. A stressed-out hamster in a wheel.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are the things I’m putting time and energy into actually productive or are they just things that are keeping me busy but not actually getting me closer to the results I’m seeking?
  • Am I trying to prove myself to someone else or make someone else happy?
  • Am I trying to “measure up” to something?
  • What will I gain by doing this? How will it improve my life? Why do I believe I need to do it?
  • Can I genuinely find the energy to do this right now and just need to push past blocks/procrastination or am I going to be doing more harm than good by pushing myself? Is my body telling me I need rest?

The Necessity of Downtime

In our current “hustle” culture, it’s all too easy to get carried away by the mindset that you have to be working yourself raw 24/7 in order to find success in life. First of all, the meaning of success varies from person to person (when people really stop and get in touch with what they truly want, uninfluenced by an outside source). Secondly, what’s the point of reaching a goal if you’re miserable while getting there? Our life is happening now, along the journey, not just in the future after we have reached our goals. And guess what? There will ALWAYS be more goals after those.

Some people thrive on hustling, but even that varies from person to person. I absolutely LOVE working on my projects several hours a day. Someone like Gary Vaynerchuk thrives on working extreme hours. But we all need our downtime in some form. We all need something to replenish what we put out.

Figuring out what that means to you is vital. Some people can thrive on five hours of sleep every night, others need 8-9. (I’m in the latter category. Do I wish I could feel energized and not have mental degradation on less? Absolutely. But that’s just not how my body is built.) I’ve learned how to pace myself with breaks throughout the day and what those breaks need to consist of. I know I like my morning to start off slow and quiet. I need doses of fresh air and nature. Escapism in the form of fiction, even if it’s just an hour a day. Physical activity. Some socialization.

Your quality of work and overall health and well-being is greatly reduced by a lack of downtime and relaxation. If you want to perform better at the things that matter to you, it’s not an option. You just have to figure out what those things mean to you and prioritize them in your life.

Finding Balance

You don’t have to sacrifice a strong work ethic or big dreams. The idea that any form of rest is you being lazy and not taking your goals seriously is a big, fat lie that is 100% counterproductive. Read Arianna Huffington’s deeply honest, eye-opening open letter to Elon Musk on the dangers of promoting such a strict hustle mentality.

The key is becoming self-aware enough to know when you need to push yourself and when you need to give yourself a break. Only you know the truth. Only you can determine what the right balance is for you. It may change from day to day; listen to your body and form an honest connection with yourself so you can always answer the question “what do I need right now?” with your truth, not your fear or someone else’s.

You Don’t Have to Suffer to Achieve Your Goals

Just a reminder. Yes, there will always be hard work involved when growth is involved. Hard work is good. But hard work is not synonymous with suffering. Sacrifices will sometimes have to be made for certain goals, but never at the expense of your health and well-being.

Stay in-tune with yourself and enlist the help of a friend, family member, mentor or coach to help you discover what balance looks like to you.

Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and prioritizing our dreams are important to avoiding stagnation in life, but we can easily fall into the trap of pushing ourselves too hard. How do you know when to apply pressure and when to let go? Follow these tips to recognize the difference between good and bad pressure to avoid burnout, stress, and overwhelm.

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