Is the Life You’re Living Worth the Price You’re Paying to Live It?

Tony Scwartz HBR

What toll does it take, over time, if you get too little sleep; skip breakfast or settle for something unhealthy; struggle with a relentlessly challenging commute; attend meeting after meeting with no breaks in between; pump yourself up through the day with multiple cups of coffee or sugary snacks; deal with hundreds of emails that accumulate in your inbox; remain at your desk for lunch if you eat lunch at all; push through fatigue in the afternoon; head home at night feeling exhausted, but continue to check email through the evening; work on the weekends; and limit your vacations to no more than a week or two, if you vacation at all?

Consider the story of the boiling frog. It may or may not be true, but the point it makes certainly is. Toss a frog into a pot of boiling water and it instinctively jumps out, self-protectively. Next, place the frog into a pot of cool water. Not surprisingly, it swims around, happily. Now heat the water up very gradually and what does the frog do? It acclimates to untenable circumstances — and slowly cooks. The frog doesn’t notice what’s happening to him, until it’s too late.

We’re experiencing the same phenomenon. Facing ever more demand, complexity and uncertainty, our initial response is to push ourselves harder and more relentlessly, without taking account of the costs we’re incurring. Physiologically, we move into hyperarousal — flooding our bodies with stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. It’s an automatic response to the experience of threat, and it provides an instant source of energy.

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