4.9. Stressed Out by Design

Pushing people to their breaking point is central to how our society is set up.

We aren’t busy and stressed out by choice.

In fact, pushing people to their breaking point is central to how our society is set up.

We have to go to school for a decade or two, just to have a chance at gainful employment.

Then we have to work for several decades more, just to be able to eat and pay the bills.

Yes, we get to go home at the end of the day—just long enough to rest until we have to get up the next day and do it all over again.

But we’re shackled to a system designed to squeeze as much productivity out of us as possible for as little compensation as our employers can get away with paying us.

This all feels very normal to us—even though, when you step back and think about it, it’s actually a pretty bizarre and cruel arrangement.

We feel like we’re supposed to thrive in this system—even though it’s set up to push us as close to our breaking point as it can.

So we go around pretending everything is fine—even though many of us can barely keep it together.

We take on extra activities and obligations, because we see other people doing them and acting like they can easily handle it.

We compare and contrast our accomplishments to everybody else’s—and pile the pressure on ourselves, when we don’t feel like we measure up.

We pack our lives so full that we rue every wasted moment. We pack our days so full that if even one little thing goes wrong, our whole schedule is thrown off.

Even our self-help books are mostly about little tips and tricks for cramming more productivity into our days, while feeling less stressed about it all.

This is all by design.

If this doesn’t describe your own experience…you’re lucky.

You’re supposed to be near your breaking point. That’s what this system is set up to do to every one of us.

So don’t feel bad about pushing back against this pressure.

Don’t feel bad about saying no, about simplifying your life, about not doing things that you see the Joneses doing.

Recognize that if you don’t take your own health and well-being into your own hands—if you simply let all those social and occupational pressures push you around—sooner or later, you’re going to end up at your breaking point.

We’re made to feel like not packing our lives full, not exhausting ourselves, not pushing ourselves to our breaking point is selfish and lazy.

I think it’s the sanest thing you can do in a society set up to use and abuse you.

I think not wanting to be pushed to your breaking point—and doing whatever you can to prevent it from happening, even if it’s socially frowned upon—is a totally healthy impulse.

So don’t pack your life so full. Give yourself a break from all the pressures the world piles on you—and you pile on yourself.


This is the 69th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *