Striving energy is associated with our incentive and drive system, the function is to motivate us towards incentive and resources to survive. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and moves us forward, this may come in the form of making it to work on time, completing a physical challenge, seeking a new relationship or buying the latest designer trainers. When we are in this mode, we experience feelings of wanting, pursuing, achieving and consuming and we release the hormone dopamine, the reward chemical.
Do you realise how much time and energy you spend striving to achieve the next thing on your list? Would you say you lean towards being pathologically productive or wholesomely motivated?
Some things simply take a bit of time… but are we losing our ability to wait?
Something happened with my daughter this week, which reminded me of this striving energy that we all have within us to a varying degree.
My daughter was watching Disney Plus on the laptop and the battery suddenly cut out. I connected the charger to the power mains but it needed a few moments to charge up and the computer then needed a reboot.
I asked my daughter to wait until it charges up a little bit before we started up the computer again, but as she’s only 4 years old and a child of the “on-demand, instant-availability” age, that seemed to be far too difficult a task for her!
Her demands became louder and louder and the more I asked her to hold on, the harder she pushed.
Driving on, and on, and on..
The same could be said about the way we behave as adults – whether we are striving for a new relationship, climbing up the career ladder, searching for a better job or to earn more money, or maybe reaching the 10,000 Instagram followers milestone – it’s important to check in with ourselves and notice when our striving energy is potentially becoming unhealthy, obsessive and all-consuming.
Take the famous author Danielle Steel for example – in a recent interview with Glamour magazine, she revealed the secret of how she managed to write 179 books by the time she turned seventy-two, releasing them at a rate of nearly seven books per year.
She literally worked all of the time, doing twenty-hour days and a handful of twenty-four hour writing periods each month, she gave herself a mere one week’s holiday per year, and practically zero sleep.
No doubt Steel received widespread praise and admiration for her ‘badass’ work ethic. But surely people can see that this is not a sustainable way to live and the fast track lane to burnout.
Driving yourself to distraction
Steel also admitted in the interview that she used her intense productivity as a way to avoid confronting difficult emotions.
Her personal battles included the loss of an adult son to a drug overdose and no fewer than five divorces. Her work, she told the magazine, is ‘where I take refuge’.
‘It’s something solid I can escape into.’
The importance of being idle
Steel is not the only one who has an inability to relax, this is a widespread issue. I have struggled immensely in the past and it’s something I constantly need to work on – psychologists call it ‘idleness aversion’ and it’s one of the core ingredients of the modern times.
So why are we always striving? Do you recognise these traits in yourself?
The first step towards change is awareness and the second step is the decision to make a change.
We cannot change what we’re not aware of.
Awareness brings us choices.
Re-learning that it’s okay to take time to enjoy the present moment
I invite you to take 7 minutes out of your day to journal about your experiences of striving.
This is not to say that striving is bad or negative but an opportunity to reflect on where you are on the striving scale. Take time to reflect and be more intentional with the way you balance your energy.
Here are 5 journal prompts to get you started:
– What are you currently striving for?
– How often do you spend your time striving?
– How does it make you feel?
– What actions can you take to move from doing mode into being mode?
– What does self care look like to you?
Jarrien is the Founder of Arden, she is an accredited Life Coach and Mindfulness Practitioner. Her mission is to share tools and strategies for emotional wellbeing to parents, teachers and young people. Empowering them to cultivate resilience, confidence and good mental health. Check out her website or find her on Instagram.