Set human expectations for yourself

My cliff notes from “Working yourself ragged is not a virtue”:

At this point in the series, we have something to fight for (something to change in the world), and we are free of obligations (we do things because we want/decide to). Now, to begin to actually remove guilt-based motivation.

Most guilt comes from people deciding to do one thing, but doing something different. For example, staying up late to binge on tv, after intending to go to bed early.

This post covers the tool for dealing with this kind of guilt, one form in particular: Having a lot to do, working as hard as you can to accomplish it all, and only stopping work before you are physically forced to drop — which makes you “bad” because you weren’t good enough to keep going.

This can stem from confusing an external standard of quality for one’s own (summarized in the Avoiding the Slacker/Tryer Dichotomy). But not always: Sometimes people do this to themselves over something truly important to them.

Their error is in maximizing your productivity today — “local velocity” — instead of over time. The goal should be maximizing the total difference your efforts make.

(When all is said and done, and Nature passes her final judgement, you will not be measured by the number of moments in which you worked as hard as you could. You will be measured by what actually happened, as will we all.

You lose points for effort; you gain points for improving the world.

Sometimes you do need to push yourself to the limit, but before you do, acknowledge the costs and weigh the tradeoffs, while keeping your long-term goals in view.

We are humans with human limitations; acting as though we are gods who can transcend our ape backgrounds isn’t admirable, but foolish.

[Damn, I need this reminder all too often!]

The point is not that you should restrict yourself (say, to 40 hours/week), or to stop when it gets hard.

The point is, you should pace yourself (“Do as much as you can, but don’t be constantly taking damage”), and you should incur soreness from effort, without strain and damage. Train to push your limits in a disciplined way, without excess.

Please treat yourself well today; doing so is an important component of long-term productivity.