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A Message For Workaholics

Growing up, I gave pretty much anything a go and this has continued beyond my school years too. I love participating in as many creative and active pursuits as possible. This is just me.

By Samuel Kett

Throughout my adult life as I’ve become more introspective and self-analytical, I’ve been quite sure that on top of wanting to give anything a go, I am also someone who is focused on achievement; someone who likes to always be busy working away and striving towards the next goal. However, I have just recently come to realise that this constant busyness and need for achievement is not actually an inherent characteristic of mine, it’s a way of being that I’ve learnt and made a habit out of. So much of a habit that other people also think this is who I naturally am, but really, I would prefer to have much more non-pressurised just “being” time.

I can see how I’ve fallen into this trap; I do truly love being active and engaged in many pursuits, but I also love chilling out not doing much, connecting with family and friends, and eating watermelon. However, my ability to engage with, prioritise and enjoy the latter of these lists has for too long been hampered by the edginess I feel when I am not working towards something.

I’ve been down the same path in my teaching life, working 8am – 5pm, then dinner, then start working again, 7pm – 11pm, 5 days a week. On top of this, I would spend at least one whole day on the weekend working and I’m aware of many other teachers doing the same, and if they’re not, they at least know they have the workload to justify those hours. Why do we do this? Why do we allow ourselves to get into this zone of just powering through our precious time working towards goals, making resources, planning, marking books, and other various administrative tasks? Are we intentionally avoiding the real world? Do we feel like we won’t be satisfied until some intangible moment of success is reached? (Side note: Some teachers just truly love spending the majority of their waking hours doing teacher stuff, and wow, that’s great, I’m happy for them, and we do need people like this, but for some of us, this stresses us out and we need more variety.)

What I have come to understand at this stage of my journey is that pursuits and goals (which I value) need to compliment a life that is based around relationships, social interactions, kindness, learning, relaxation, fun, enjoyment and an appreciation of the small things. There will be difficult times, and if we’ve spent all our time on striving and achievement, then we haven’t been building those more humble and solid foundations that allow us to be strong in the face of the challenges that life throws at us.

The other day I lay on the couch, I couldn’t believe how good it felt. It made me realise that I have only lay on the couch with the purpose of relaxing possibly once in the last 6 months. Simply stopping, without worrying what my to do list looked like felt really darn good. Stopping, relaxing, unwinding, spending time with people; just being, with no pressure to achieve anything, I can now see is a key element of self-fulfilment. Achievement means little without this balance.

In saying all of this, I won’t stop playing sports, teaching, making music, working on Agentic Teachers or setting goals; because this stuff is part of what makes me, me. But what I will do, is prioritise plenty of time to step away to simply relax, connect with people, enjoy the sun on my back or even just fully appreciate a hot drink on a cold evening in front of a movie. Yes, my work, my music, my sports, all of my pursuits are important to me; however, prioritising relationships and my own headspace are what will provide the foundations for me to thrive and have the positive ripple effect on others that I ultimately hope for.

Your Turn

What do you think, what do you do to relax? Do you relax? Do you struggle with the same thing? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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