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The Pressures of External Demands

We live hectic lives!

I imagine that most of you would agree with the above statement. Few are the people in today’s world, who found a way to balance the perennial demands calling for attention.

The sheer volume of tasks and responsibilities we must attend to is enormous. In my experience it matters not whether you are single and living alone or a parent with a full-time job and parenting responsibilities, everyone is struggling for time.

Time is an interesting concept, dare I say an illusion that has us trapped into the proverbial “rat-race”, but it’ll be a topic for a different article. Today I want to explore what happens when we are overwhelmed by external demands, and suggest a couple of approaches to redress the balance.

In my video a couple of weeks ago I presented the analogy of the carpenter who is late on his projects.

In brief, you are a woodworker of great talent, and your craftsmanship is second to none. You are concurrently working on three projects and for several reasons, you are behind schedule.

You suddenly find yourself in that strange space that we often all occupy, where you are tired, you know you are delayed, but you seriously consider increasing your work volume and intensity, in the hope that you can sprint to the finish line and still make it on time.

This is the first opportunity that you have “to notice”.

Our daily awareness is often scattered and diluted among multiple domains. Many of the unhealthy, and sometimes damaging, behaviours we engage in happen because of a fundamental lack of awareness about the tiny, endless decisions we are making every moment.

This moment of realisation, when you hear yourself pushing for more, could be the first point at which you stop, or at least slow down, to take stock of the situation and make an informed decision. But we often don’t!

Blinded by the external pressures and expectations, we plough through and fail to take appropriate action.

And so, having decided to continue working and push through, you accelerate your pace and begin to take small shortcuts. You are so pressed for time, that even though your expert eye notices the imperceptible grainy cuts your chisel is making, you accept to continue, trusting that the imperfections are small, enough to not matter.

As time progresses, you push the boundaries a little further and you reach the point where you begin to question the quality of your output.

This would be another of those moments where we could take stock of the situation and take appropriate action. But as you can imagine, most of us don’t do this. In fact, against our better judgment, we often ignore these signs and continue working.

At this point the spiral gets narrower and faster, and recovery becomes more and more difficult as we press against the fast-approaching deadline.

Let me share a couple of examples to further illustrate the point.

A few years ago I was attending a networking lunch and I happened to be seated by an elderly gentleman (70+) who used to work as Chief Financial Officer for a major international organisation.

At one point during the lunch, I asked him, “If I brought you in front of the leaders in my organisation (at the time a bank) and I asked you to talk to them about leadership, what would you tell them?”

He thought long and hard, and after a good couple of minutes he pronounced, “I’d tell them…it’s not worth it!”

I was not expecting that answer and I asked to further clarify. He proceeded to tell me that he used to be the classic corporate man who achieved great success early on in his career working hard to climb up the ladder, and eventually holding several C-Level positions in the two large multi-nationals.

He shared about his insane work ethics and how he ignored all the tell-tell signs that kept emerging, until one day at the age of 54 he collapsed on the floor of his office due to a heart attack. Thankfully his organisation had on-site defibrillators and good emergency protocols, he was kept alive and eventually saved by the medics who looked after him at the hospital.

Now, in his early 70s, he had been living a slower, healthier life, but most importantly had learnt to listen to himself, his needs and his body and as a consequence was enjoying a happy and healthy retirement.

My second example is a famous case and you may have actually read about this already.

It’s the story of Ranjan Das, a 42 years old CEO of SAP India (SAP being a gigantic organisation with global reach and power).

Ranjan rose through the ladder at frightening speed. He was a dedicated family man, who worked out regularly, run marathons, did not smoke, ate healthily and for all intents and purposes lived the perfect life.

Until he dropped dead with a massive heart attack at age 42, leaving behind a wife and two small children.

What killed Ranjan Das, lack of rest!


My first recommendation is to pay attention!

In a previous article, I articulated how our being is constantly communicating about the status of our organism, but we most often fail to look at the dashboard and act accordingly.

Please, please, please learn to monitor your dashboard and learn to recognise its signals.


Most times taking the 10-15 minutes necessary to sharpen the chisel will pay dividends over the long run. A razor-sharp chisel will afford you fast, clean, effortless cuts. The quality and efficiency of your work, regardless of your domain of application always benefits when your mind and your body are sharp, clean and focused.

There is great value in staying focused and disciplined toward a goal we feel passionate about. But remember, even Olympic champions include recovery in their training schedule to a major competition.

Thank you for reading my article.

I base all my articles on real case studies and research findings that are relevant to my work and my clients.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you would like to explore something together.


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