Like most ambitious people, I thrive on pushing my own limits. I’ve never really been competitive, but I do love to prove to myself that I can go beyond my perceived personal limits in pursuit of my dreams. This inner drive is no doubt one of the reasons why I have largely followed my own path and have achieved many of my own dreams, but I’m learning that there is a limit to how far it is worth pushing. We live in a world full of memes telling us to work hard, dream big, and never give up, but sometimes we really just need to stop and ask ourselves, how much is enough?
I’m thinking about this because for a long time I have been pushing up against my physical limits. For about 14 years I’ve had what is commonly called repetitive strain injury, or RSI, which is the medical profession’s catch-all name for ‘mysterious nerve pain’. Although the NHS is notoriously useless at helping people with RSI, I have made some good progress over the years with the help of a few good health practitioners and I’ve managed to to a stage where I can get more done with less pain. The ultimate goal of no pain, however, has always eluded me.
The fact is that, although it is often both possible and desirable to push our own limits, there is a law of diminishing returns. We reach a point where the price we pay is greater than the reward that we receive. The idea that we can have it all sometimes leads us to forget that real life is all about compromise, and sometimes that means that we have to accept our own limits. That’s why I’m trying to reduce my working hours and pressure at work in order to finally tackle the root cause of my RSI. It’s why I have decided not to pursue long-distance running challenges this year and why I’m not going to be doing a lot of cycling.
By accepting my physical limits and doing less, I hope that I will actually gain more than I lose, and by addressing the root cause of my RSI I might just put myself on a path that could enable me to pursue more ambitious physical goals in the future.
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