I have a therapist. She’s great, and together we are working on transitioning me from a very specific, driven, high-stress work life to one that’s more suitable for my long-term goals. I have a lot of opinions (shocker!) about high-stress work, and whether or not its an effective way to approach business problems.

In my humble opinion, I think its important to balance stress in work and balance stress among workers. It makes you less fragile and better able to address unforeseen problems when they come up. One of the side effects of high-stress work for me was an almost toxic sense of urgency. Some people would probably also categorize this feeling as anxiety, but I have anxiety and to me they are different so I call them different things.

Urgency = An uncontrollable feeling that in order to survive you need to be goal driven at all costs. The feelings are invasive, and prevent you from enjoying your life.

Anxiety = Uncontrollable, invasive worrying about things you cannot control. These feelings also prevent you from enjoying your life, but (at least for me) they aren’t limited to work related issues.

I perseverate about conversations I had in 1995 with people I don’t talk to anymore (or who I can’t talk to anymore). Totally different from not sleeping because I need to learn new skills to make more money or else I can’t be happy/be housed, well-fed, or able to live. One is very personal & related to how I conceptualize myself, the other is completely related to how I engage capitalism. I get help for them both, because they cause my life & relationships to be less smooth than I would like.

One of the major things I did to combat urgent feelings is to understand that what I feel isn’t always the complete truth about a situation. So for example, I was recently pushing myself in a learning sprint. The learning sprint itself is great, and I’m still learning a lot. I realized about 20 days in that I was doing it to alleviate feelings of disappointment & sadness for leaving my medical career (and the social power that it afforded me, even as a resident).

This isn’t the end of the world, but it is something that I’d like to slowly work on. I’d rather do a sprint because I need to kickstart a new project that I’m really excited about, or learn a new hobby or skill because *I* want to learn it, rather than because it will help me climb a social or financial ladder. I don’t want the possibility of a better paycheck to influence why I do things, and I don’t want my self worth to be tied so closely to my job. I’d rather gain skills because I’m interested in them & I’m curious about how knowing this new thing will change my perspective on life.

Idealistic? Yeah probably. It takes discipline to commit to living in a way that lets you wake up in the morning and be happy looking at the person staring back at you in the mirror. I’ve been happy to know that person I see on the other side of the glass for a little while now, and I’m hoping to keep it that way.