(Dilbert) “I think my coworkers are getting dumber.” (Dogbert) “They’re not getting dumber; you’re just getting to know them better.” This Dilbert comic made me laugh because of how true it is – no offence to the people about whom I’ve thought this. I know some have thought this of me (my wife is one of those people), but I’m actually at a higher risk of experiencing this with others because I have a bad habit of seeing people as better than me, which is a form of imposter syndrome. Because I see people higher than I should, I naturally end up being disappointed at some point, which is more about my mistake and not theirs. As long as I don’t get backstabbed, in a strange way this reality check can be a relief: “Oh good, you’re not too good to hang out with me.” My imposter syndrome’s also a blessing at preventing me from being arrogant (I have no chance of that), and when I was young, it helped drive my competitiveness and pushed me to do some cool things. As I’ve gotten older, however, imposter thinking has paired with my new bad habit of being conflict averse, and together they give me a very strong temptation to hide from people and situations even when that can make the situation worse. Of course, the only real way to fight these thoughts is to acknowledge that the imposter syndrome is a lie. I also need to remind myself of my own value and accomplishments while also reminding myself of that I’ve become very skilled at reducing conflict and I’m stronger than my brain wants to accept.
Imposter syndrome is a major reason I hate when my office has work meetings – I hate work meetings! I know I’m not alone in this, but I have a particularly strong dislike for them. The main reason I hate work meetings actually has nothing to do with how I see people (mentioning imposter syndrome was really just a bonus thought for today’s post, so it’s like a 2 for 1 deal – you’re welcome). I ended up discovering the main reason I hate work meetings so much after my big meeting last week (self reflection has its benefits). The main reason I hate work meetings is they almost always announce something new we need to start doing. I hate new stuff – I haaaaattttttte it. Yes, I’m old and I hate change, but I realized today it’s more than just a fear of change. If you consider a person is like an engine that can run at different levels, and if 70-80% is the healthy range, I run at about a steady 90-95% capacity. I would say I ran between the healthy 70-80% when I went to the cottage for a week this summer… it felt amazing. I would say I do 100% for bursts like in December when I run at 100% for the month because I know I’m getting a holiday where I can rest. On travel holidays I tend to run at 100 to 110% because there’s so much I want to do, which is why I need to recover after a trip. When I was in school I was regularly running at more than 100%, which explains why I burnt out. Running over 100% means I’m cutting out things I need to do to function properly like enough sleep, exercising, or I’m seeing my family enough. Running above 100% is obviously dangerous for a person’s health and needs to be avoided. As a parent there can be seasons where this is impossible, and they just have to be endured like the first four months, which are brutal. Or you can be like my friend’s parents who had four kids under the age of four – crazy. After having two kids in two years, the parents had an oops… which were twins. The mom says she doesn’t remember the first seven years of her twin sons’ lives; that sounds about right.
Because I run at such a high level, if anyone tries to change something in my schedule I have a hard time not freaking out. Even if it’s to reduce my workload, I am at risk of feeling overwhelmed and going crazy – change will throw off my routine! I have a history of being a workaholic and I’m much more balanced than I used to be, but I’m still so busy (especially having a 3 and 1 year old), I don’t have a lot of wiggle room before I have to give up sleep or other healthy habits to fit something in. This means every work meeting impinges on my time and when they ask for the workers to do something like learn a new program, I really have to bite my tongue because I want to scream. Arguably I should try to run at a healthy capacity, but that’s not really an option right now. Even if I could cut something, my brain would just replace it with something else because I’m used to running at this level, I wouldn’t know how to slow down in my normal life if I tried.
Understanding our capacity is really good for helping make decisions. For instance, my wife is obsessed with having a dog, but we agreed that we can’t as a couple handle any more than what we currently have. We are at our max. Unlike many couples and young people who get a dog because they want what they want, we’re waiting until our two girls are more independent before we revisit this. Considering capacity is also helpful for knowing what kind of house you should own. I love my mom’s house with her almost acre property, but my dad was a teacher, which gave him the time to do all the work around the house it needed (summers off really makes a big difference). My lifestyle doesn’t afford me the room for that kind of responsibility unless I want to give up something I really love.
Understanding our capacity ultimately helps us make wiser choices, which allow us to function in a healthier and productive way. Running at 100-110% may work for a short period and help get a lot done in the moment, but it’ll have long lasting effects like burn out. We are better at running life like a marathon and not a sprint, burn out, sprint, burn out, etc.
- What is your healthy 70-80% capacity zone look like?
- Is your healthy zone able to grow to handle more or is it stuck? For example, when I started as a therapist, three clients a shift was hard on me, but now I can triple that without a second thought because I’ve developed my stamina.
- How will you know when you’re past the healthy zone and closer to 90%? At 100%? Past 100%?
- What activity or habit needs to be added to your current schedule to help you run better? Anything that can be cut out?
- Why do you run at your current level? For instance, if you run high like me is it because you want to prove yourself, enjoy life to its fullest, or hide from something by being too busy to think? If you run too low, are you lazy, don’t trust your abilities, given up, etc?
- Is your current lifestyle causing someone else to run too much or too little?
This week may you consider what capacity you run at, whether it can be improved, or if you’re like me who can only appreciate that you’re running at a higher level and you need to be nice to yourself where you can.
Rev. ChadDavid, www.ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)