Career

Knowing My Limits

Definition of stress: a state of mental or emotional strain Source: http://copewithlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/stress.gif

Looking back, this was probably the busiest school year of my life. I balanced five co-curricular clubs, a full course load, and a weekly blog, which sometimes left me feeling stressed out and burnt-out. As the year draws to a close, final exams, essays, and projects and commitments are naturally starting to pile up, which have only increased my stress levels. I’ve barely been getting any sleep, and Kraft dinners have become a staple in my diet. Long story short: I have too much on my plate right now (macaroni included).

However, I’ve always been a pretty committed person, which has been a gift and a curse throughout my life. Despite feeling completely swamped with work and school and my personal life, I surprisingly haven’t backed out of any of my commitments this month. This, as I said, is a gift and curse.

I recently had to attend an event for one of my co-curricular clubs on an extremely busy day. I had been running around campus all day, and the last thing I wanted to do was go to the event. But, being the tragically committed person I am, I ended up pushing myself to go.

Usually, when I push myself to do something I don’t want to do, I feel proud of myself and silly for even thinking about not doing it.

However, for the first time in quite a while, this was not the case.

I did not enjoy myself at the event. I was tired, stressed, hungry, and I had a couple of essays to write. I didn’t feel like socializing, and I was so tired and stressed that I couldn’t concentrate on anything going on. By the time I left the event, I realized that I wish I hadn’t attended it at all. Tacking that event onto my schedule definitely pushed me beyond my comfort zone, but in a way that was more harmful than enriching.

Attending that event was a wake up call: I’m slowly realizing that I signed up for too much this year. I’ve realized that I need to sign up for less commitments and focus more on the co-curricular activities I am most passionate about next year. By signing up for so many things this year, I sometimes spread myself too thin, and I couldn’t focus on the co-curricular activities I was most passionate about since I had to divide my time equally among all of them. As my recent fiasco made painfully obvious, it’s important for me to acknowledge my limits.

This was definitely a difficult decision to come to, because I used to believe that the more work I signed up for, the more “successful” I would be, and the more accomplishment-packed my resume would be, and that I should constantly keep challenging myself if I want to keep improving myself. But after attending that event, I’ve come to realize that quality is more important than quantity, and that doing more work is useless if I’m burned out.

Taking on so many different activities has also informed me about where I want my career trajectory to go; I’d rather focus on a few select activities than be a jack of all trades (and a master of none). I don’t plan on underachieving or backing out of opportunities; I just want to focus my energy on a smaller amount of activities so that I can put more effort and mindfulness into each task, rather than spreading myself too thin and burn myself out through too many activities. It might be difficult to learn to say “no” next year, but staying mindful and aware of my career trajectory will hopefully help me in making these difficult decisions.

Pushing myself to do more and work harder is something that’s important to me, so I don’t regret filling up my schedule and trying out new things this year. Plus, I wanted to try new experiences and jobs (like blogging), even if it did inevitably lead to a heavy schedule, which lead to many career insights, like the kind of activities I want to channel my energy into and the importance of realizing when I’ve reached my limit. I want to keep challenging myself and nourishing my career in the years to come, but hopefully in a healthier, more focused way.