In my past life as a first responder I would push myself as long and as hard as I could, often to my own detriment.
I loved my job as first responder, so much so that my life, my very identity, would get wrapped up in the job and when I ultimately left in 2013 it was as if a part of me had been amputated.
That was a definite drawback to the way I lived, so career focused.
In my own way, I was “all in, all the time.”
The problem with being all in is, when 100 per cent of your life is committed to the job, there is nothing left in reserve for your family or for yourself.
Something myself now would tell myself then is that you need to keep something in reserve for yourself.
No one can operate at peak levels indefinitely, at least not without significant long-term health impacts.
Don’t get me wrong, I still push myself. Just ask my wife or my manager.
The difference is, I’m a lot better at reading my body than I used to be and despite the fact that today I run on copious amounts of coffee, I’m better able to read when I am tired versus when I am feeling exhausted.
Tired is one thing.
Maybe you didn’t sleep well the night before; you’re feeling off, but you’re still functional.
With exhaustion on the other hand, at least for me, it doesn’t seem to matter how much sleep I get. I still don’t want to get out of bed.
With exhaustion, my motivation goes into the tank as well and I generally struggle to function.
In a past life I would ignore the red flags and work myself into the ground to the point where I was of absolutely no benefit to myself or anyone else, oftentimes taking weeks to months to recover and sometimes ending up in hospital to deal with the mental health related side issues that came from the exhaustian.
What’s different today is that when I start seeing the red flags popping up, I know to back off; that, and I always try and leave myself a bit of a reserve.
I make a point to spend some time with my wife most days, even if it is just watching television.
When I start reaching the point of exhaustion, I make my needs known and take my foot off the gas a bit, allowing myself some recovery time.
I’m no longer “all in, all the time,” though I do take my role seriously and give it the time it needs; however, I make sure to set aside time for myself and set limits.
Ultimately, setting limits and taking more time for myself has made me more productive and more focused in my current role.
I am grateful for the fact that I have finally learned this lesson, though, I will admit, I wish it would have come a decade sooner.
Still, better late than never as the old saying goes.