Too much Mastery = Burnout – Too much Pleasure = No Purpose

The title of this blog was inspired by a quote a friend shared with me during a recent catch up after realising she may have reached corporate burnout.

We ended up having quite a deep discussion and I thought some of the learning may be useful to others.

We discussed how we both had grown up pretty focused in school and mastering good grades and were now doing the same in our careers. We reflected that we spend a lot of our free time on mastery and learning, whether that be listening to podcasts, reading business books or studying.

You can see my quest for mastery from a young age via this year 10 journal entry my mum found!

Whilst this is productive and healthy up to a point, we also reflected on how you can be too focused on mastery and lose the focus on pure pleasure in life. For us that includes being in or around the ocean, reading or listening to fiction, watching some light TV, spending time laughing with friends, playing with little ones or just hanging out with our partners in the moment.

It was an interesting reflection for me. The next night, I had planned to jump on the bike turbo and study a cyber security module (fun sat night!) whilst the husband was away. Instead a friend messaged and asked if I was around. She came over and we watched Wimbledon and ate ice cream, pure pleasure, which is more what I needed.

On the flip side, too much pleasure can be not productive. This article in Psychology Today is an interesting read, “Too much pleasure, not enough happiness.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/longing-nostalgia/201903/too-much-pleasure-not-enough-happiness

The takeaway I distilled was to make our pleasure meaningful. I’ve found that a daily pleasure practice of gratitude and meditation helps give my life meaning.

I think too much pleasure as the title quote suggests could equal no purpose and it’s great to strike a balance being the two which will vary depending on your circumstance.

Also, I do think that there is a sweet spot where mastery can become pleasure when you’re so accomplished and enter a flow state.

With my balance recently being more tilted to mastery than pleasure, I’m looking forward to a pleasure trip at the end of next week to visit our family in Cyprus and to England for my sister’s wedding.

What would you say your current balance is of mastery versus pleasure?

After this conversation I was reading a Peter Cook Thought Leader’s blog which I always find insightful and came across the notion of extreme self care. Whilst I am a big fan of self care and help balance my mastery tendency with meditation, massage, manicures and facials / blow drys I hadn’t heard the notion of extreme self care.

Pete shared this term was coined by Thomas Leonard who came up with an extreme self care checklist. Whilst every item on the 100 point checklist may not relate to everyone, I found this a useful exercise to go through. Interestingly, one of the 10 focus areas is pleasure!

A handful of the actions that stemmed for me were to:

⁃ Book in a nutrition session before I start IM 70.3 training

⁃ Book in annual health retreat date

⁃ Have another massage before our long flight to Europe

⁃ Floss twice daily, versus once a day

⁃ Stretch more regularly

On reflection, I think you could go into mastery mode with extreme self care and get too focused, which might defeat the point, but I think it is useful to think about what time and energy we’re devoting to ourselves to then be our best for others. The classic aeroplane oxygen analogy, putting your own mask on before helping others.

I hope by sharing this at least one person may have an insight and action emerge which was always the purpose of starting to write this blog and sharing some thoughts.

Love to hear any comments / reflections.

(I picked the blog title image as felt it represented my two year old Huw in pure pleasure! I think young kids generally have a good balance of pleasure and living in the moment :-))

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