Mindsets play a key role in moving toward a lifestyle of margin.
Embracing a lifestyle of margin will require altering existing mindsets or perhaps adopting new mindsets altogether.
Limiting mindsets will keep us from margin, while adopting new mindsets will move us closer to making lasting change.
Ultimately, our beliefs precede our actions.
If we hope to change our actions we must first change our mindsets surrounding margin.
Redlining Is Not the Standard
For many, in their career or in their family, the common expectation is that life is meant to be lived with the throttle stuck wide open. More projects, more activities, more community service, more after-school programs, more hours at work.
Particularly within the workforce, there seems to be an unspoken expectation that if you’re not redlining it, you’re slacking. If you finish the week with fuel left in the tank, you could have given more. Somewhere along the way we seem to have confused work ethic with sprinting our way through every single workday — as if anything less than 110% in our work is less than acceptable.
I’m not talking about quality of work, I’m talking about an underlying expectation that we must operate on overdrive every day of our life, and if you’re not on board with this work approach, then your work ethic may be in question.
The problem is living in perpetual overdrive leads to burnout. Regardless, redlining became the standard. Those who throw themselves into career, community, or mission with absolute abandon are praised.
“Be more like Steve. He always delivers!”
But in no way is redlining sustainable, even if it is (incorrectly) the gold standard. If this is your normal, you might manage to squeak out 3 – 5 years before symptoms start popping up, if you’re lucky.
Redlining is a recipe for burnout.
Would you be able to sustain your current efforts for the next 10 years? More importantly, what would it cost you?
Richard Swenson brilliantly outlines the different ‘gears’ of living in his book Margin. Let me share them with you.
The first gear is park for the contemplative times. This gear is used for rest and renewal, and to recharge our batteries.
The second gear is low. This gear is for relationships with family and friends. This is the gear we use when talking with someone, and it prevents us from being distracted and nervously moving on to the next activity while still in the middle of a conversation. No hurry here: just quality.
The third gear is drive. This is our usual gear for work and play. This gear uses lots of energy, and the faster speed feels good because it is productive.
The fourth gear is overdrive. This gear is reserved for times that require extra effort. If we have a deadline coming, we kick into this gear. Many in our society do not shift down from overdrive. Our cars are not meant to race at high speeds continuously, and neither are our bodies or spirits. Yet to slow down is unthinkable for some and seemingly impossible for others. We’re simply not designed to live in overdrive.
Overdrive should be the exception, not the rule.
Marathon, Not a Sprint
We are often admonished to live life at a marathon pace.
But do we know what that even means?
Did you know that professional runners train year-round logging thousands of miles, but only race the marathon distance a few times per year? The marathon is so intense that professional runners only put their bodies through the full race a few times a year. They put in hundreds of hours of training to race six to eight hours per year.
As it turns out, marathon pace combined with marathon distance is quite extreme.
For profession runners, racing is the exception, not the standard. For these athletes, most days of training include easy to moderate efforts, with a few hard efforts mixed in.
If marathon runners only ever trained at marathon pace, they would quickly fall to injury.
What do you need to thrive?
While the marathon analogy does not perfectly cross over to every occupation or role we carry, it does in many ways.
Whether you’re a professional in the workforce or a stay at home parent, you deserve to treat your daily training with the same care as a professional athlete.
Are you putting yourself through a full marathon race every week? Every day?
Have you come to believe that is the expectation?
There are times and seasons we must access overdrive, but we’ll eventually pay for it if we live in overdrive — one way or another.
Marathoners are not only meticulous about their training, but also their sleep and nutrition.
Are you getting the sleep you need to thrive? What nutrients do you need to operate in your sweet spot? You need nutrients both physically and for your emotional well-being. This is all part of sustainable living.
We must manage how frequently we are operating in overdrive, ensuring we are properly resting between efforts, and fueling ourselves with the proper diet not only in the food we eat, but also in the types of inputs we are consuming mentally.
Sustainable living isn’t redlining it. It’s calculated, measured, and intentional.
Can you sustain your current efforts?
What is your definition of sustainable work?
What is your definition of sustainable living?
What is sustainable for your marriage and family?
Does every work-week turn into yet another marathon race?
Are weekends and evenings as a family constantly frantic frenzies?