Set(ting yourself) up to Fail.

Life often throws us challenges that we can either buckle up for and endure, or succumb to. Life, in that sense is unforgiving. It’s a do or die situation all day, every day and when it’s sink or swim your options are very limited. But we, as a species, seem to have come to the conclusion that the challenges that life throws us aren’t enough to keep us occupied and on our toes. Nonono. We do not only take on these unavoidable tasks and duties that govern our day to day – but we decide to ADD onto it.

And in doing so – we are set(ting ourselves) up to fail.

Whether it’s you who takes on additional new loads on shoulders that aren’t broad enough to carry them to begin with (purely out of sense of duty or necessity) – or whether they’re stacked on there by those around us…we often tote around way more than is doable or manageable because society has taught us that that’s just what we’re supposed to do. We pick up more work, tasks or activities than is sensible, logical or acceptable and more than can be expected when one also is required to be successful in each and every one of them.

It’s a capitalism side-effect, this complacency in being asked for a finger, then watching quietly as the hand gets taken and then uncomplainingly seeing the arm demanded. We’re so used to giving when asked and supplying when requested that we stop questioning the necessity of a great many things. And because we’re so eager to please and give and give and give – at some point things are going to topple over and come crashing down. Only to blame that failure on our own inadequacy instead of the unrealistic pressure.

The ‘usual’ concept of supply and demand is relatively easy in the economics field. Pricing depends on the supplies present and the demands on it by those looking to acquire. Somehow, however,  we’re also fine when these supply questions become demands in a more personal setting, regardless of the actual realistic flow of things and the actual availability of ‘óur’ supplies.

In the end we humans are but a limited species. Our ‘supplies’ (albeit mental capacity, physical capability or social availability) are finite, in that they can be exhausted and depleted. And the demands made on them are ever increasing in a world that is used to getting what they want and striving for ever more. Yet somehow the very simple act of keeping an eye on our own limits and boundaries seems to be an impossible task. At least, judging from my own life.

At work I am (currently, and usually) overloaded with amounts of work that would mostly have to have been done by three brave fighters. It’s me, fighting an ever overflowing cup of TOO MUCH-ness and a constant scramble to make it from deadline to deadline. Which I like, don’t get me wrong. I like that feeling of being needed (and the imaginary appreciation I get for doing so so very much work). But it takes a toll.

And then in my personal life I keep adding onto that already high stack of responsibilities by taking on extra things. Volunteer work, friendships, sports and hobbies all pull into that already limited bucket of ‘yes-I-can’. But saying no. Saying no is hard and usually very much unacceptable (which makes it EVEN HARDER to say). Necessary but hard.

I realize it’s going to cost me at some point, no matter how hard I exclaim to be burn-out proof.
I realize that I know, they know, everyone knows that at some point I’m bound to drop one of those many balls. And I realize that it would probably be a GOOD thing to (eventually) find that actual limit of where enough is enough.

Throughout the years I’ve always worked in teams that got the hard end of the stick. Teams who specialized in buckling up and succeeded in doing the unthinkable. And more often than not at some point we’d have this conversation on how we should let something crash and burn to make the point that the requests upon our persons and teams were impossible to be met. Yet somehow that was always followed by just working a tad harder and still getting everything done in the nick of time. An attitude that I have forever ingrained in my character, I think.

But in doing all that. In accepting all the demands of ourselves, society and whoever else thinks they have a say – we are inevitably set(ting ourselves) up to fail. It might take a long time. It might not even happen at all. But balls WILL be dropped. The brighter a star burns – the faster it dies, is what they always say. And with reason.

There’s but one lesson to learn. How to turn that setup for failure into a setup for success. Which, in the end, all comes down to setting boundaries and limits and actually holding on to them. Or (in my book) the impossible chore of putting yourself first. TOUGH AS BALLS!
I’ll just add it to the to-do list.

10 thoughts on “Set(ting yourself) up to Fail.

  1. The art of saying “No” is important to learn for our long term health. I was always the 20 in the 80/20 rule. I can tell that you are too. I became the “go to guy.” It took a toll on my health. After I learned to say no, eventually they stopped asking. I still did more than my share of the work, just not 80%. Great post. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

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