I had a realization today. A friend invited me over for a pool party BBQ, and although I really wanted to go, my spirit and heart felt heavy. If I went, I knew I would have a great time, because many of my friends and family were also invited. But I have been pushing myself so hard for the last few weeks, and I realized I had finally run out of steam.
So here I am, managing a ranch, taking care of animals and land, and working five days a week, while also being a daughter, sister, mom, grandma, friend, and employee, and still finding time to engage with joy and excellence rather than duty and sloppiness in the things I love—an international interview, a Bible study, going to the gym, writing a book, blogging, drinking coffee, watch the birds, dreaming about the future, and going to backyard barbecues with my friends and family. Needless to say, I need to pick my load.
Here’s my simplified version of a basic principle of calculating load force, as defined by Sir Isaac Newton: Anytime you use force or do work, such as lifting a coffee cup off of a table, energy is transferred from you to the object, causing a desired effect. (Force = mass x acceleration)
In my case, this morning, I slowly lifted my cup for a sip of hot coffee, followed by a deep breath, with a listening heart and a smile, and then—bam—my mass accelerated too fast, putting me at risk of overload. As I superimposed additional loads of both routine and spontaneous events (the environment, the news, social interactions, last minute additions to my calendar, crisis, and chores), my load can exceed my capabilities and cause an overload.
Many of us have been advised at one time or another to pick our battles. I’d like to suggest we pick our loads. Just as we stop and think about the criteria for passing up one battle and choosing to engage in another, we need to stop and assess the load we are facing and choose to either pass or take it on. I guess that’s what it means to “work smarter; not harder.” To almost complete 100 actions by taking on 100 loads is not the acme of mission success. To complete your mission without quitting is the acme of success.
Picking your load is knowing what you can manage today—and what you need to leave for another day or even walk away from altogether. (Never be afraid to walk away from a load you’re not comfortable carrying.) This is critical to completing your mission without breaking down and quitting.
If you find yourself saying, “Life has become too difficult, and the things I normally enjoy have lost their appeal,” then pick your load. If you find yourself in overload, taking on too many superimposed roles and duties, you will end up feeling drained of emotional, mental, and physical energy.
Protect yourself from a heavy heart. Take a step back and look at the big picture. What’s the larger story, and what is your role? When facing your day, consider the possible outcomes of the load in front of you; how does it impinge on the bigger picture?
A self-evaluation—weighing the downsides against the upsides in a clear-headed fashion—will help you identify whether the load is going to break you or contribute to your success tomorrow. Personally, I’d rather build muscle one day at a time than overload and never recover.
May you have faith to apprehend the purpose you were created for and the wisdom to know your limits.