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Why Being Easily Overwhelmed Is Actually A Good Thing
It is universally a bad idea to let yourself get overwhelmed. It is even worse to spend your life in this state.
Well first, obviously, because it doesn’t feel very nice. But the avoidance of difficulty created by this acknowledgment only exacerbates the problem, so it’s not of much help.
Thus, second: you become significantly less effective when stressed.
The stress response redirects blood flow from the abstraction, thinking, and long term planning part of your brain to the run, fight, hide, defend, and freeze part of your brain.
When you are overwhelmed and trying to get things done, it's like asking your brain to plan the next year of your life while running from a bear. You can't.
Studies have shown that you literally lose 10 IQ points when stressed.
At 120% capacity, you function as if you are at 60% capacity.
And thus, overwhelm begets more overwhelm.
Even if you can manage to limp along in this state without losing your job or business or relationships, you will eventually crash. The question is simply when and what damage will you have done by the time it happens.
The longer you spend in this state, the worse the crash will be.
Do it until you are 50, and the amount of health problems you’ll have racked up will likely doom you to medical troubles for the remainder of your life (which may be much shorter than you hope thanks to spending it as an inflammation-based cancer-cell factory).
You may be saying “Yeah Matt, I know. Stress is bad. All you’re doing is making me more stressed by telling me how bad it is to be stressed!”
And that’s fair. But here’s what you may be missing.
This response is actually a good thing. It means you are uniquely low in stress tolerance. And a uniquely low stress tolerance means that you have no choice but to build a life to accommodate it.
You have no choice but to, in the first third, build ways of living that are sustainable and effective across the whole thing.
This huge upfront sets you behind the curve until you’re at least 30. But life is long. And compounding is one of the greatest forces in existence.
All the suffering, learning, habits, mindset, and systems you are building will result in exponential returns very soon.
If you are in your twenties or thirties and feel unusually stressed and behind the curve for your age: This is a gift.
While most people are teeing up for their first divorce, en route to a mid life crisis, obesity, medical debt, and spending the second half of their life suffering thanks to their "amazing ability to tolerate stress"in the first half, you will instead be building amazing relationships, businesses, ideas, and inventions that will only get better; looking forward to another 60+ years where you will feel more joy and have more impact every day than every one that preceded it.
Keep working. Keep building. Keep iterating. And most importantly: be patient.
It will all pay off soon enough.
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