In order to be excel at whatever it is you want to do, you have to disengage with it – on a regular basis. It took me a long time to understand this, when I was younger I thought that every minute I needed to be working on improving and accomplishing my goals.
This is completely and utterly wrong.
It seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is this: in order to be really good at something, you can’t be doing it all the time – you have to step away and not even think about it, preferably daily. There are a few reasons for this, but burnout is near the top of the list. Ever wonder how some doctors and nurses can work in a high stress life and death environment like the ER for decades? Many come into the profession and do it successfully for a few years and then they just can’t take it anymore, they burn out. What’s the difference?
The difference is this: in order to perform at a high level in a very stressful environment, you have to leave it at work. By the time I get home after a chaotic shift with multiple deaths, threats of violence, and the feeling that “I did the best I could with the resources I had” – the shift is already a dim memory. And I don’t think about it again until the next day I go to work.
This concept is also true for creating art – it’s as if the time away from whatever it is you are focusing on somehow brings clarity to it. The things you engage with while you are away give new meaning and perspective to your work.
This is one of those things that I had to learn the hard way. Here’s how life works – I can tell you this, but you’ll probably have to learn it on your own. When I was younger I wouldn’t have listened to this advice either.
Some people are smart enough to know this intuitively, the rest of us hopefully pay attention and pick it up at some point. It’s one of those things that helps you get ahead in life. And enjoy it while you’re alive.