We all know how completely consuming art can be. Creating a new project or work requires so much time and tends to take over your life.  However, artists aren’t the only ones getting consumed by their work.  Let’s face it, most people today are run by their jobs.

The lines between work and personal life have become very blurred.  Multi-tasking has become a basic requirement. iPhones have made it possible to give immediate response to e-mails, texts, and messages and now that it’s possible, immediate response is expected.  More and more people are working from home and find that what they thought would be a flexible arrangement has become just the opposite. Work becomes something to be done any time and all the time.  As artists, we never turn our brains off when working on a project and it’s often hard to calculate the amount of preparation that goes into our particular work.  Therefore, we often find ourselves getting a paycheck that doesn’t nearly compensate for the time we’ve put into our work.

Reasons the Lines are Blurred

The blurred lines of where work starts and ends cause so much stress and frustration in our lives and yet often times, we do absolutely nothing to change things.  We complain, but at the end of the day we simply continue to let our jobs run our lives.  Why do we do this? Well I will speak for myself and give you the reasons I justified my own blurred lines:

  • “Nobody said this was going to be easy.”
  • “I’m the only one who can get the job done.”
  • “I need the money.”
  • “Someday things will change. This arrangement is just temporary.”
  • “I don’t want to be seen as lazy.”
  • “This is what I need to do to get ahead.”
  • “I don’t want to let anyone down.”
  • “This is the price of success.”
  • “I don’t have a choice.”

Those are my reasons and my guess is they are probably yours as well. While there can be truth to some of these statements, the reality is that your job will run you for as long as you let it.  I once read that you can’t get upset at others for pushing you to the limits that you yourself set.  Basically your job will always do what you allow it to do. You have to be the one to set the boundaries-your job will never do it for you.

I realize that that statement is easier said than done, particularly if you have a high stress job where a lot is riding on you or if you have a job that doesn’t seem to care about the boundaries you may have already set. There are certainly times to ride out the stress or situation that you’re in, but when the job is riding your entire life, then it’s time to make some adjustments.

Even the Best of the Best Set Boundaries

I think that artists have a hard time saying, “no” because we are constantly told that saying,”yes” is what gets us ahead.  I’m a big advocate for working hard as well as doing what you need to do to get where you want to go.  However, I think we need to get out of the mindset that professionals never quit, say no, or have priorities other than their career.

I’d like to reiterate that point by giving you some examples of very successful artists who found themselves in situations where they needed to say no. Being that I only have two television shows that I faithfully watch it should come as no surprise that my examples come from the two shows I’ve drawn inspiration from for years.

Actress Jennifer Morrison of Once Upon a Time

I’m pretty obsessed with this show and it was a stressful week for me as the fate of the show’s future had yet to be determined.  Earlier this week it was announced that lead actress Jennifer Morrison, who plays Emma Swan (a crucial character on the show) would not be returning for a potential season 7. As a hard core fan, I immediately flipped out and got upset because I couldn’t imagine the show without her character and I didn’t know how the show would continue without such a crucial leading lady.  However, after reading several interviews, I had tremendous respect for Jennifer Morrison making the decision that she did.

You can read the interview she did with TV Line here but to summarize, she basically had been doing a grueling network television shooting schedule of 16-18 hour days for the last 13 years. While she absolutely loved Once Upon a Time and her character Emma Swan, she was ready to explore new avenues of creativity, have a personal life, and be at home with family and friends.

This was obviously not an easy decision. She could have easily said, “the show will fall apart without me,” or “I can’t disappoint the fans,” or “everyone else is continuing,” or “I don’t want to be ungrateful,” or “this is my job.” I’m sure she weighed all of those things in her mind but at the end of the day she had finished her commitment, was happy with where her character was at, and knew she needed to take care of herself and do what was best for her.  

People tend to be reactive instead of proactive when it comes to setting boundaries. How many stars run on an endless treadmill of fame and success and then find themselves lost and turning to the wrong things the minute their career slows down? I have tremendous respect for Jennifer Morrison’s decision to keep her creativity fresh, preserve her personal life, and step away when she felt the time was right.

People will always be disappointed when you say, “no” to something they want you to do, but at the end of the day those people, that job, and your adoring fans are most likely not the ones that are going to take care of you and they will always want more.  The choices and boundaries don’t get easier the more successful you are.  In some ways, the stakes are higher because the more you have, the more you have to lose. You might as well learn to set boundaries now with the small things because what good are you to your craft or to anyone if your soul and health are completely drained?

Olympic Figure Skater Dorothy Hamill

Nobody knows pushing yourself to the limits, handling a grueling schedule, putting everything on hold to have a singular focus, pushing through injuries, and handling competition like an Olympian.  Olympians are strong, fierce, and disciplined.  Figure Skating gold medalist Dorothy Hamill was on Dancing with the Stars Season 16. In the second week of competition she was dealing with an injury but danced anyway. However, when it came time for the first elimination of the season, she shocked everyone by voluntarily stepping out of the competition in spite of the fact that her and her partner Tristan McManus had made it to the following week. You can see what happened here.

In summary, Dorothy Hamill had developed a cyst on her spine which had the potential to cause very serious injury. After realizing she was safe from elimination and taking into consideration the advice from her doctors, she decided to withdraw from the competition because she didn’t want to see someone else go home when she knew that she couldn’t give the competition what it needed and what she was capable of and she didn’t want to risk permanent injury.

As inspiring as it is to see people push through injuries, I thought it was just as inspiring to see someone who had the strength to know when to step back. Yes, sometimes people push through injuries and still get the job done, but other times they push through and the performance suffers, they suffer, and it’s tough to watch.  Dorothy Hamill’s decision was not an easy one but it was one that took courage, strength and discernment. Again, let’s not forget that she is an Olympian! There is not a lazy bone in her body and if she thought she could have pushed through, she would have but she knew her limits and considered the effect pushing those limits would have on her future.

Which Broken Record Will You Listen To?

If my writing about boundaries is starting to seem like a broken record, please realize that it is in response to the broken record that we hear all the time.  I’m talking about the broken record with the message constantly telling you to push through no matter what and always put the job first. That record is all well and good until the work that we put our heart and souls into becomes work that we lose our souls in.

I repeat my broken record because I want you to know that there is another option.  Your life will not stop if you set boundaries at work-it may in fact continue further than it would have if you hadn’t stopped. Never forget that you do have a choice and that you have more control over your boundaries than you think.

“So here’s the thing: if you go through your life always trying to please everyone, you’re going to let yourself down.  you can’t rely on other people to make you feel good.  You have to own your choices-good and bad- because they are yours, and regardless of the outcome, if you choose to, you’ll learn from them.”

-Derek Hough

What choices can you make to clear up some of the blurred lines in your work and personal life?

Genesis 2:3- Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done.


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