To the Extreme and Back

The snoring filled the room. Lottie, the white Labrador puppy was sleeping. When she slept, she was like a rock. It took relatively loud sounds to stir her. Not much of a guard dog at this moment in time! She took sleeping to the extreme. When she plays in the day, she is relentless as well. All her energy gathered from her sleep (and food!) is not wasted but converted into energy and joy. She plays at the extreme of rest and activity.

Have you managed to balance your work and life outside work? You have heard the term ‘work-life’ balance? How successful are you at doing so? Is it possible, relevant, or necessary? Or is it an option, not a must or a futile dream?

Have you found that it is when you are engaged deeply in an activity as though that is the only activity that matters is when you derive the most and best out of it, be it professionally or in your life outside work? Or it is when you do something (‘go through motion’) just to ‘get it done’ that you receive mediocre results, certainly not the best outcome possible?

Too many people try to balance too much. They think, “I will work X amount of time, no more, no less and I will spend Y amount of time away from work, to make sure there is a balance.” Or say things like “Don’t exert yourself completely, save some energy for later.” Some thoughts may even run like “Never show your hand completely, keep a bit of reserve in all you do” possibly due to some perceived notion that you may get taken advantage of, decorum or ‘normal’ social norms. They think it is ok or adequate to be ‘good enough’ or just to ‘pass’ not excel.

However, is that living in full? Is that the way to experience the totality of what life has to offer? For many, the reason could be due to fear. The fear of giving it all (what if I have nothing left?), the fear of success (the thought is alien, I am not sure I know how to cope with it), the fear of having nothing left (I must save some energy for XYZ later), the fear of Imposter Syndrome (if I don’t show or do too much, they may not know I am clueless!). All these fears will hold you back from reaching the deepest abyss of your Infinite Soul and pull out the best in you. They hinder you from reaching inside and demand all you have to give. It is only when you have given it all, that is when you will stretch and realise there may be another half percent or one percent that you have left and actually begin to grow.

More importantly, that is where the magic happens. When was the last time you got so involved in something that you lost track of time, you were in the ‘flow’? It may be a project you are working on professionally. It could be an exam that you were revising for. Or perhaps it was being totally present for your friends, family, partner, or children? Either way, a few things happened. Firstly, you lost track of time and space, it was only you and your task. Secondly, you received tremendous results, results that were unusual is you had only done enough to ‘get through it’. Lastly, you felt incredible, not just mediocre but incredible, like something in you had changed and you became more.
If it was at work, you performed beyond your expectation, you exhibited extreme professionalism, and shone so brightly that it could not be ignored. If it was with someone, that other person could not help but felt your involvement, your presence, and your soul with the time spent with them. If it was for your personal play like a hobby, you derived such great satisfaction and actually improved your game. You will find that these results can only be gotten when you are ‘off balance’ and gave your everything to it. It usually is not rational or calculated. It is pushing yourself to the extreme.

The danger lies when you have gone too far and are not able to come back. You cannot play or work so much that everything else is ignored. The secret would be not to try to have a balance but strive for a counter-balance instead. Let’s pretend you have an old fashion balance as you find in grocery stores in the past. You put a little weight on one side and your fruit or vegetable on the other side to find out how heavy they are. Many people try to balance as little as they can in their lives so as not to tip the balance. Or they go too far on either side and either work too hard and burn out or play too much and not achieve their dreams. The idea of counterbalancing is to push all sides as far as you can. You do not hold back but are able to come back if and when you desired.

There may be periods of your life where it is more work-focused and others where is more play-focused. For those who have found play in their work, they have it the best for they are playing no matter what they do. Seek that rare air. Why work when you can play? For those who have not, seek mastery in the craft you do for your ‘work’ while attaining your play outside of it. Pour your heart into all you do. Magic usually happens at the extremes, not in the middle. When a pendulum swings, it is at the extremes where it momentarily stops, harnesses all the stored up energy due to gravity, and swings the fastest downward. When it passes the middle, it is when it slows down. The magic happens at the extreme. It is the same for your life. It is at the extremes when you give your all that you receive the most. If you play in the middle, you give little and receive little. 

Lottie is able to rest well and play well, optimizing her extremes. How far do you swing in your extremes?

‘Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.’ – T.S. Eliot

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