Do you feel like you never have time to stop and breathe? Are you always rushing from one thing to the next, compelled to complete the next task or achieve the next goal, but unsure of the purpose? Do you find that your work lacks meaning?
If so, you’re not alone. Almost everyone feels the relentless rush that is the hallmark of the Stress Cycle. We move from one thing to the next without stopping—certainly without taking time for such “unproductive” work as thinking about our lives or finding out how we really want to spend our time. Why is it so common? The Stress Cycle is a result of the powerful pull that exerts itself over us from the various systems in our lives: pressure from our jobs, families, community, and even culture in general tells us that we have to pursue certain things without stopping to examine whether or not we truly want them.
The Highlands publication Don’t Waste Your Talent explains the Stress Cycle in detail. If you haven’t yet had a chance to read it, here is a quick breakdown of some of the key elements of the Stress Cycle:
- You are preoccupied with short-term problems and only motivated by short-term successes.
- You place a high degree of importance on outward symbols of success—the car you drive, the clothes you wear, and the neighborhood where you live.
- You take your cues on what to focus on from others, be it your work, families, neighbors, or peers. They dictate how you spend your time and what you place the most importance on.
- There’s no room in your life for long-term planning because you are busy reacting to whatever the moment brings.
Nobody really wants to live this way, and yet more often than not it’s exactly how we do live—perhaps with a vague notion that someday, things will change. But as we grow older we become increasingly aware that time is short, energy is limited, and changes are difficult to make. We can’t break out of the Stress Cycle precisely because it’s a cycle—one thing leads to another, and so we feel stuck. We are so mired in the day-to-day that we can’t look ahead very far to the future. To quote Don’t Waste Your Talent, “Most people spend far more time and energy focused on how they will spend their annual vacation than they do on how they will spend the next 20 or 40 years of their lives.”
Moving to the Balance Cycle
The opposite of the Stress Cycle is the Balance Cycle. In the Balance Cycle, we stop reacting to life events and start purposefully planning and achieving the things we want. Notice the difference—not the things that everybody else wants, and therefore we assume must be good for us, but the things we know we want because we’ve consciously made decisions about our priorities and we review them on a regular basis. We set personal boundaries that protect us from sliding back into the Stress Cycle.
The remarkable—and encouraging—thing about finding balance is that it doesn’t necessarily require a drastic change in your life. As we’ve written about before, as little as a 10% shift in your thinking about your roles and responsibilities can help you achieve balance.
The trick is knowing which 10% to change.
Our Highlands Certified Consultants (HCCs) undergo extensive training so that when you take the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) and debrief with your HCC, you get highly personalized feedback that speaks directly to your life and circumstances. We don’t offer any pat answers or one-size-fits-all solutions. Your HCC can help you hone in on the most significant 10% in your life.
Both the HAB and your HCC are objective sources of feedback, which is exactly what you need in order to get fresh perspective on your life. The exercises you complete as part of creating your Personal Vision are carefully crafted to help you engage with your whole self. Rather than isolating your career as one factor in your life, independent of your values or family influences, you explore all eight integral factors that make up who you are.
When you come through the other side of creating a Personal Vision, you’ll have a new perspective on your life and career. New options will occur to you for the first time. Rather than dead ends, you’ll start to see possibilities.