Turn off to Turn on —Balancing intensity with relaxation

One of my all time favorite Tim Ferriss Podcasts is the first episode with Josh Waitzkin. In this podcast Waitzkin discusses understanding the natural undulations (up’s and down’s) of life. He discusses the importance of the rise being equal to the fall if you want to perform at your best

To give some context on why Waitzkin is the ultimate master of life, he is a world champion chess master, Tai Chi Push hands world champion, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black belt under Marcelo Garcia, who is essentially the Michael Jordan of Jiu Jitsu.

This man knows his shit when it comes to world class performance.

He believes that in order to live a balanced life, and more importantly be a world class performer, our periods of intensity should be matched by EQUAL periods of relaxation.

For every hour you spend in “ON” mode, you should spend equal amounts of time learning how to turn “OFF”.

But in today’s society, we’re always on. We prioritize work over relaxation. We live lives of imbalance that eventually manifest in sickness, injury, stress, anxiety, and more.

Despite lives of abundance in the developed world, we’re more stressed out and anxious than ever before. We’re aging faster, and mental health is consistently becoming more of a problem.

Just look at the way we structure our weeks. We spend 5 days working and only 2 days off. In America we work 11 months of the year and get only 1 month off. We work for 8 hours a day, bring our work home with us, and only give ourselves a few measly hours to relax…if that.

For a lot of us, this equation is far worse. I know far too many people who pride themselves on working 12 hour days, sleeping as little as possible, and stimulating themselves whenever they can so that they can “get sh*t done.”

In the USA especially I’ve met far too many people who wake up and take Aderall/Vivanz + coffee, and then can’t fall asleep at night so they smoke pot and take Xanax so that they can calm down and get sleep. Talk about unsustainable!

Back to the point, Waitzkin discusses how you can build ON/OFF into your daily life in order to teach yourself how to turn on and off at will.

The example he uses in the podcast is “High Intensity Interval Training.” In this form of training you will go balls to the wall for 3–5 minutes, and then rest for an equal amount of time.

Why does he do this? He practices getting his heart rate up to its maximum, and then seeing how long it takes him to get his heart rate back down to normal. He practices periods of intensity with flipping the off switch.

The better you become at turning off, the more intense your periods of “on” will be.

At the extreme end of the spectrum he uses the example of Marcelo Garcia. This man has become so good at flipping the “off” switch that in the World Jiu-Jitsu championships you can find him sleeping underneath the bleachers prior to his fights. Once the bell rings and he wakes up, he’s awake with all of the intensity in the world and is a monster in the ring!

So how can we apply this to our own lives?

Try to take inventory of your life and examine your own balance.

How much do you work vs. relax?

How many hours do you spend by yourself vs. with others?

How much of your time is spent selfishly, vs. selflessly helping other people?

If you’re in a relationship, how much time do you spend by yourself vs. time with your significant other?

Chances are, if your scale is imbalanced, this is manifesting as some problem in your life. The problem is, we often don’t associate the problem with the true cause (which is the imbalance you are ignoring).

Over time I’ve learned to PRIORITIZE taking time off. I make sure that for every hour I spend working, I have equal hours of doing absolutely nothing. If I see my balance getting out of whack, I self correct and take more time off.

Since starting my own company I’ve noticed that I don’t get sick anymore. Why? Because If I’m feeling bad I just sleep it off. I probably got sick because I was overworking myself, so in order to balance out the equation I need to sleep more to allow my body to recover.

Whenever something in life feels off, I evaluate where I am spending my time and diagnose the imbalance to correct it. Or, I’ll just take time off of everything to relax and let my subconscious mind go to work. This never fails to take care of the problem.

Many times we try to work our way through our problems instead of walking away from our work entirely.

It seems counter-intuitive, but I guarantee that if you were to take this approach it would work wonders in your life.

Not making progress in the gym? Try taking more time off. Not making progress at work? Take time off. Relationship going sour? Give each other some space.

I encourage you to create a unique system for yourself that works best for your individual needs. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a daily basis, because for some of this it simply isn’t possible.

For example I’ve met people who work intensely for weeks on end, but then take equal weeks off. You can create whatever system works best for you and your unique situation as an individual.

Implement undulations into your daily life and develop a more balanced, healthy, life. The rise should always be equal to the fall.

Remember that the better you become at turning off, the more intense your periods of “on” will be.

Treat every endeavor in life with this attention to equilibrium, and I guarantee positive results 😃

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