The following is adapted from Free for Life.
The attitude of our society is work hard, achieve greatness, and don’t worry about tomorrow. Give it 100 percent all day, every day. Go all out. There is no need for balance, because the medal, the recognition, the signing bonus, is worth the pain.
Intensity at the expense of our health and wellness is encouraged. I certainly bought into this idea during my time in the Navy SEALS, and externally, I appeared to be fit, successful, and satisfied. But inside, I suffered from chronic, debilitating physical and emotional pain.
If this sounds like you, know that there’s a better way to live. You can determine what’s wrong in your life, turn your intensity into peace, and be happier and more successful than ever.
First, it helps to understand the reasons we overwork ourselves and why the cost is to great. There is always a cost for over-doing.
Why Do We Push Ourselves Too Far?
Society teaches us that nobody is going to pay you a six-figure income to be a well-rounded human being who just does solid work every day. You have to be exceptional. There is no reward for being a well-adjusted, emotionally intelligent, or spiritually developed person.
We hold onto this belief so tightly because many of the most successful people take this no-holds-barred approach to pursuing their goals. Yes, intensity can lead to success, but is it worth the cost?
Career success and good health are not mutually exclusive, and while we witness the public achievements made by intense workers, we usually don’t see when they suffer the consequences in private.
Consider Michael Phelps, the world’s all-time most successful Olympian. I can only imagine the huge amount of stress and trauma he’s accumulated over the years. He’s matured a great deal now and is a father, but there was a time when he was smoking marijuana, getting into trouble, in car accidents, and fights with his girlfriend. He would train eight hours in the pool, then brag about eating McDonald’s three times a day.
We see his body burning calories like a furnace while forgetting there’s a lot more to nutrition than just calorie count. He may have been perfectly fit externally, but, most likely, he was also perfectly unhealthy internally.
Facing the Consequences of Intensity
We internalize the all-or-nothing work belief when we’re young and then push ourselves harder and harder to get ahead. However, whatever force we put out pushes back, and when we push ourselves too hard, we end up compensating in other ways for the damage we do to our bodies and minds. This constant push and pull leads to imbalances that keep us from maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
I pushed myself hard in the SEALS, and as a result, I suffered intense pain and emotional stress. I used extreme exercise to run away from what was begging for attention within. It took me years to undo the damage I did to my body and free myself from the anxiety I carried inside. You’ve probably experienced consequences of your intensity, too. These consequences can manifest as chronic pain, illness, depression, anxiety, or other negative afflictions.
Fortunately, you can take steps to transform your intensity into peace and recover from years of overwork.
Undoing the Damage
I tried all kinds of holistic methods to manage my pain: yoga, juicing, stretching, meditation, acupuncture, and more. Over time, I began to make minor improvements, but only when I addressed my energetic, mental, and emotional, pain along with the physical.
The biggest lesson I took away from all my efforts wasn’t the potency of one approach over another. It was that, although I valued educating myself, it wasn’t up to me to figure it all out. I could allow my intuition to guide me, and I could allow my intention to be the driving force for what I attracted to myself. I shifted from a problem-solving initiator into a receptive, intuitive being.
This is when I learned about the interconnectedness of everything. The emotions, spirit, mind and body, top to bottom, back to front, in to out, left to right. After de-tensing my upper body, I would then move to my lower body, and I could feel how much more open my lower body was because of what I did to my upper body and vice versa.
It was shocking to discover how much stress and tension were twisting my structural form as well as my emotional availability, from the inside out. I made de-stressing and de-tensing a priority, and only then was I able to permanently recover from my damage.
You, too, can find peace, physically, emotionally and mentally, and it begins with rejecting the impulse to go all out. Adopt a more receptive outlook on life, appreciate the interconnectedness of your emotions, spirit, mind and body, and follow your intuition to find what you need in order to restore, replenish and regenerate.
For more advice on self-improvement, you can find Free for Life on Amazon.
Christopher Lee Maher is a former Navy SEAL who endured intense amounts of physical, mental, and emotional stress as a child and during and after his military career. He has taught himself how to free his energy, body, mind and emotions from pain by developing the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of being. Christopher studied Traditional Chinese Medical Practices at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and at Yo San University, then continued his studies at The Universal Healing Tao System. He is a student of Grand Master Mantak Chia at the Universal Tao Master School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and is currently pursuing his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Traditional Chinese Medicine.