falling off a cliff

The Symptoms of Overextension

Overextension is a collective as well as an individual phenomenon. Witness the alarming rates of stress-related diseases, obesity and indebtedness. In highly extroverted societies the desire for more and more sensory stimulation eventually sends countries and individuals over the cliff, where ruin waits at the bottom.

What are the signs that tell you when you are taking on more than you can handle? Start by observing your body. Are you experiencing chronic fatigue or irritability, aches and pains, and other recurring ailments? If so, your nervous system could be over stimulated.

Next, describe your experience with money, work, and relationships. Do you over spend, over work, and try to please others at the expense of your needs? Do you base your value on whether others approve of you? Do you believe if you had more, more status, more possessions, or more money life would be better? If so, your focus is external, not internal.

History Will Repeat Itself, Until You Change

Spending money keeps economies humming along, but spending for what you don’t need robs you of freedom. The more you owe the more you work to pay debt and interest, not for pleasure. This sets up an adversarial relationship with work because you have to do it to pay your bills. Inner rage about feeling constricted often gets expressed in conflicts with bosses, co-workers, and family members.

Inevitably, overextension is its own downfall, as history has proved again and again. The fall of nations and economies can be tracked to the day leaders took on more than they could handle, promising anything to their constituents to get and stay in power, or starting wars that emptied treasuries and destroyed entire populations.

In every life and nation, the pendulum swings from excess to contraction, since this is how we learn. Sadly, those who never learn are doomed to repeat the past. The consequences of their mistakes are passed on to future generations.

To improve the world, we each need to right the imbalance in our personal lives, not add to the world’s problems by doing more than we can do well. Nothing in excess, the Greek philosophers said, counsel that applies today, tomorrow and always.


Moderation is not glamorous, but it is the key to balance, collectively and individually. One person with firm boundaries may seem like a tiny step to world peace and solvency, but firm boundaries affect everyone who knows you, since we are all part of a larger whole.

Saying no to excess takes fortitude. Most of us are under tremendous pressure to lower our boundaries. This pressure comes from many sources in society, such as famous role models who appear to have it all together– even if, in reality, they are exhausted and unhappy.

Bombardment from overly busy people who believe this is how one is supposed to live life makes it difficult to trust your perceptions. Every Mother’s Day, for example, newspaper, magazine and online articles say, “Even on Mother’s Day she puts others first,” as if that were an admirable way to live. A realistic, supportive article would say, “Especially on Mother’s Day she balances her needs with the needs of others.”

Appearances are deceiving, as the saying goes, and nowhere is this more apparent than on social media, where images often idealize the lives others lead. Young girls and boys lack the discrimination needed to separate reality from fantasy. At their impressionable ages, they suffer from perfectionism even more severe than their parents did in their day, judging themselves by how many “likes” strangers give them, or who disparages them on their social media pages.

As a parent and grandparent, you can set the example of emotional and financial maturity these kids need by living in harmony with your natural rhythms.


To change your world, change yourself for the better.

Exercise every day. Choose a regimen you will do consistently, alone or with others. After three weeks, your body will crave the “high” you get from daily rigorous movement.

Eat only when you are hungry. Don’t stuff your emotions; feel them. Acknowledging what you feel helps you make choices that work. When in doubt, ask yourself if the choice will energize or deplete your reserves. If you override what you hear because you are afraid you will miss out on something, or you are afraid you are being selfish, these are signs you are overdoing it.

Eliminate possessions you no longer use or love. Creative energy gets trapped in clutter and dirt. Organize and clean everything in your environment, and keep it organized and clean. A clean, uncluttered space reflects a well-balanced mind.

Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Save money every month, no matter the amount. Buy only what you need, and when you do buy, purchase the best so it lasts.

cutting expenses

Double the amount of time you believe you need to reach a goal. When you catch yourself comparing yourself with others, stop.

Don’t worry about others getting there before you, or if they will outdo you. They could be taking shortcuts, or someone may be making it easy for them. In some cases, they are taking on more than they can handle to gain attention and approval. If so, they will soon crash and burn.

See frustration as a friend who knows what is best for you. If a door closes, don’t push harder against it; you will only injure yourself, and create problems worse than those you are trying to solve.

When you feel discouraged, don’t talk with people who are not doing the work you are doing. Their lack of understanding will only make you feel worse. Instead, share the struggle with those whose lives demonstrate what you are trying to achieve. Contrary to what you may believe, they will be glad to help you get where you want to go.

When all the signs say the past is over, let go. Holding on to what is obsolete not only prolongs the pain, it also delays change for the better. Fear of the unknown is the scariest fear, but the unknown itself is joyous, since it brings newness.

If others pressure you to go too fast, too far, and too high, laugh and tell them you may take longer than most people to get where you want to go, but by the time you get there, you will really know what you are doing. Mollified by humor, your critics will quiet down. He or she may even copy your wise example.

Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the Sacramento/San Francisco Bay Area. She is also the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. Nancy’s website is workwithpassion.com.

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