Tension can be a good thing… Until It Isn’t


Tension…. We all have it at times, and it’s normal to a point.

I get an image of a tug of war. On one side is work, with things like working late, tight deadlines, stress and pressure. On the other side is personal life, with things such as family, time with kids, exercise, or even grabbing a beer and watching a game.

It is normal to have a back and forth in a tug of war, with one side taking the lead by a few steps either way, back and forth. Similarly, it’s normal for one of either work or personal life to take priority at times in a natural ebb and flow.

But the tension comes when work starts to win, at the expense of those other personal values over a consistent, longer period of time.

Those regular little expectations from work are called microstressors. By themselves, or when the expectations happen infrequently, it is not a problem. They won’t tilt the tug of war to the work side alone. But when it happens regularly, this microstressors build up and make a difference.

Similarly, there are expectations at times from home that can shift the balance of the tug of war in an unhealthy manner. Those microstressors have a similar impact on your productivity at work, and create that tension all the same. Things such as sick loved ones, pressure to make it to every child activity, and family dynamics all factor in, as well as many others.

I’ve learned that in every situation, you are saying yes to one thing and the same time no to another. In an incredibly busy society, it’s common to hear things like, “I have to work late to get the job done on time”, or “I can’t make it to your activity tonight, but I really wish I could.”

This constant tug of war for time creates that tension, and inevitably you are choosing one thing at the expense of the other. It really hit home for me when I read that how you choose to spend your time shows what you value.

As I said before, there is a natural ebb and flow in life. But I want to be sure that there is no doubt which side will win the tug of war in my life.

If you were to reflect honestly on your own situation, which side would you say is winning right now? Are you pleased with your answer?

If so what steps are you taking to ensure it stays that way? If not, what could you change to shift the tug of war back to a more healthy position?