Restlessness…. a helpful driving force or a sign of the need for change?


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In the last few months Ive experienced this sense of needing to be doing more, to be working harder and ultimately to be moving forward but have felt stuck. This stuck feeling has caused some anxiety and caused me to look at what needs changing but left me thinking is this the way to deal with it? Should I be making changes or is this a natural feeling derived from where im at in my life and career, so naturally i decided to explore this further and record my findings.

Restlessness i used to describe the feeling I have currently that Im not doing enough, should be somewhere else moving faster toward my goals. When I looked up what restlessness actually meant, it was mainly a physical description but one definition also described restlessness of the heart and mind, this i feel is the correct description of how I feel currently.

I’ve always been a driven, motivated person perhaps to the extreme, taking on new voluntary projects whilst studying, having new projects at work while managing a high caseload and going for jobs that are a jump above my current role. Perhaps this is the perfectionist side of me asking myself to do more than is expected and to achieve, where this comes from is a whole other story (!), however, now it is causing me to feel very dissatisfied with my job and life in general and wonder if this is a helpful way to be.

So if restlessness is a by product of perfectionism, does this mean I need to make changes in my life or in my thinking? Its a tough one, striving to achieve has served me well so far but I wonder if as I get older the bar is already being set higher, things becoming more out of my control as life gets more complicated, with more extraneous factors whether I need to let go a little and change how i’m thinking in terms of goals.

Whenever I speak to perfectionist clients one thing reins true for all, ‘ what if i change my standards & expectations and end up not achieving anything?’ The tendency being to think in all or nothing terms, that without such high standards we will turn into lazy, unsuccessful individuals’ Im reminded of this as I think about trying to relax my own expectations and the answer comes as I would say to clients, what is this standard costing you???? For me it is this restlessness, this sense of things not being good enough, of me not being good enough.



So i ask myself, can you let things go enough to feel like you’re doing ok and with this understanding, feel less in a rush to be somewhere else, to be working harder and faster as those goals are smaller, shorter term. If I move the goal post in the short term perhaps I’ll feel enough of an achievement in the small things to feed that need without it costing me enjoying the present, after all thats what life is all about no?

Of course, within the individual sense of where I need to be there is also my context, being part of a western individualistic society where achievement is important but a lot then hangs on our shoulders to achieve alone. With this the internal locus of control falls onto us, we need to be working toward our goals, its not about timing, or things coming to us, we have to be going out and grabbing them. Aside from this it helps to look at my life stage, at 27 i’m in a transitional period where the expectation is for life goals as well as career goals to be achieved, but then again does this come back to the cultural context also? I wonder how other 27 year olds from Asian, Hispanic, Turkish and other cultures feel about this sense of wanting to achieve certain life or career goals.


On that note I guess the conclusion is it depends, on individual, cultural and developmental factors. Restlessness is probably a by product of my expectations for myself not necessarily a call for a change externally in my life but possibly a change in my perspective and view on how things should be. Perhaps its about letting go of certain ideas and questioning why, in order to find a way to be happy in the now and present in this transient thing we call life.





Images:1) clipart 2) Frederick Bebber photograph

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