When famed composer Johannes Brahms was in his latter years, he announced that he would no longer compose. His friends and adoring public were shocked and saddened by the news. “Why?” they asked him. “Why, when you still have so much beautiful music left to write?”
He explained that he was old and wanted to spend some time enjoying his last years. Who could blame him? He had already given many years to his craft, making music that blessed so many.
And so, Brahms laid down his pen and spent his time visiting friends and pursing hobbies. Those who were close to him said that he definitely seemed to have more spark since stepping away from the demands of being in the public eye.
And so it was that everyone was totally surprised a few months later when Brahms announced that he had just completed a new work. “But we thought you were going to retire…” they declared.
“I was! I was!” he said, “But after a few days’ leisure, I was so happy at the thought of not writing that the music just came to me without effort!”
Ever been weary of well-doing? Sometimes the pressure to do the thing you love to do takes the passion out of the process. Everyone’s expectations for faster, better, more have made you forget how much you enjoyed doing a task just for the sake of doing it.
Maybe all you need is a break. Can you take a time-out for awhile, go on a vacation, delegate the day-to-day part of the task to someone else, get someone to take a piece of it that you don’t like? Maybe you need to lower your customers’ (internal or external) expectations. Tell them that you’ll no longer be completing the task each day (or week, or month). Let them know that you are going to scale back on the quality, quantity or speed a little. Often times, you’ll find that you only thought they needed it at the level that you were producing it.
It’s important that you maintain your passion. If you don’t, the quality, quantity or speed are going to suffer anyway. You’ll find yourself resenting all the extra effort you put into it. You’ll feel trapped by your own standard of excellence. Before that happens, step back from the task and create some new boundaries for it or step away from the task so that you can get a clear perspective.
If it’s worth doing and it’s worth you doing it, we’ll wait for you to sort it out.
(S – Parts adapted from Braude’s Handbook of Stories for Toastmasters and Speakers, Jacot M. Braude, editor, Prentice Hall)