Are You Pushing Too Hard?

I'm Rishma!

Naturopathic Doctor & PhD turned scientific creative, travel adventurer, joy seeker, book lover, mom of two amazing humans, wife to her best friend. 

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The Race Without A Finish Line

Imagine you’re running a race, and every time you see the end, the finish line moves, just a bit further.  So you keep going. You run further, the next milestone, and the next.  You’re tired, you’re hurting, you start missing other things in your life, but you keep getting so close. So you just keep going. Through the wind, and the heat.   And then someone asks you, “how far do you want to go, because this road never ends?” 

If you know what I’m talking about, this episode is for you. 

Where Growth Meets Intention

Welcome to the XO Conversations Podcast. Your go-to podcast for all things personal growth and intentional living.   

Today I’m going to walk you through a case study using part of my framework that I’m writing about in my book.  It’s about someone who was following her career path and then had to make some big changes and important decisions.  

Essentially my framework is how I think about decision making, and specifically being intentional with our choices. 

Choosing Conscious Responses Over Habit

Because when life happens, as it inevitably does, we tend to fall into patterns or automated reactions. So how do we figure out what next steps to take? How do we go about creating real, meaningful change in our lives?

And if you’re making some choices about your own life, don’t forget to grab my free list of 5 must-ask questions before making a decision. You can get it at

This is Kristin

I’ve always been a super avid reader, I have just always been devouring books my whole life. 

Like many people, Kristin started off going after her career goals. She wanted to have a successful job, making good money. 

“I graduate college, I get a job at a big global consulting firm, like one of the top five in the world. And my life feels incredible. I’m living a life I’d never imagined before. And I’m thrilled, I’m doing well at work, I’m getting promoted. I’m working on at the gym, and building like a love for fitness I’ve never had before, I have an active social life, like I’m checking all the boxes and doing all the right things at the age of 25.”

For Krisin, this was a dream job, something many of us strive for in our careers. A set up that feels, by all outside metrics, very successful.

Kristin is in what I call the drive zone. She had both the awareness and action to move forward with her goals. She knows what she wants for her career, and she is taking the right steps.

When Your Body Says No But Your Career Says Yes

“When all of a sudden out of nowhere, I started having these random energy crashes. And when I say an energy crash, I mean, I am suddenly within seconds, unable to stand up or sit up, my muscles are so weak, I am struggling to breathe. And this dark brain fog comes over my mind to the point where I’m almost unconscious.”

In this case, Kristin has something happen that changes everything for her. She has this rare, very complex health situation that gets worse and worse, and makes it hard for her to continue her life as she knows it.

At this point, Kristin needs to address her health. Something is happening in her body, she needs to listen and figure out what’s wrong so she can deal with it. 

So of course, she does what most of us do, she ignores it. 

“Not only did I believe I was invincible, I also came from a family where emotions weren’t okay. I learned from an early age, not just from my family, but like my school, my community, that my emotions are an annoyance and a problem and a burden to other people. And I should just keep them to myself. And just keeping them to myself wasn’t enough, like still feeling them left me hurting and conflicted.   my coping mechanism was just to stop feeling my body and my emotions. So when I first started getting ill, my reaction was I don’t have time for this. I’m just gonna push through until it goes away.”

She pushes through. She continues working.

“The emotional struggles of this I wasn’t even aware of them. I just stuffed them down and tried to pretend they weren’t there and just focused on willpower and determination. And just just getting through it the way I’d always gotten through everything which was just sheer blind pushing. The crashes started infrequently. And they became more frequent over time. And it got to the point where I was crashing pretty much every single day just walking to the bathroom could trigger a crash, eventually. I was going to I was going to push my way through this or die trying. And that absolutely accelerated my health issues and and kind of tested me on that bet of you know, push through or die trying.”

This is what happens when we get into pushing mode. We continue no matter what. We sacrifice our health, our sleep, our family.  

And this is not a judgment, just an awareness that in life we tend to be so focused on hustling, and doing more, and excelling, that we push ourselves too much, for too long, and often beyond what we can take. 

If we recognize it before something bad happens, we’re lucky.  Sometimes, it takes something big to force us to stop.  Like for Kristin.

“I was physically collapsing. You know, I usually had enough energy to get to the ground without like hitting my head. But it was immediate and fast. And a complete loss of just enough energy and strengthen my muscles to do anything other than just lie on the floor and continue breathing for a while.” 

I’m not going to talk about burnout here, I’ve covered it before so you can listen to that episode, it’s a really fresh take on burnout, and I’ve even done an episode on boundaries

In this case, it wasn’t that her body shut down from her stress or her job.  It happened regardless, but she couldn’t focus on it. And it made things worse. 

The point is that we all make choices, even if we don’t realize we’re making them.

Rediscovering What Truly Drives You

When people talk about being intentional, usually they mean that they thought about a choice – should i take this job, or should i move to this city?  But being intentional is about also understanding what our automated reactions are, the choices we make when we’re not paying attention. And then deciding if we agree with that choice.

The problem is, when we end up chasing things that no longer fit with our wants or our needs. We’re forcing something. We think “I just need this next raise, I just need a better title, I just need a bigger bonus”.  

And it’s tricky because it FEELS like you’re making progress. You have a good life, on the outside. 

This is where Kristin started, at first, she was intentionally driving her career decisions.  I call this DRIVE zone. It’s intentional. She has a vision, she’s taking action, she’s seeing the results. She was moving towards her goals and aspirations.  

But then she got into a version of auto-pilot mode, in this case she moves to PUSHING mode.  

It might be familiar to you. Bigger, better, more.

Health, Happiness, and the Hustle

And it’s confusing because it feels like we’re making progress. We think we’re being intentional.  

But instead, we get singularly focused. We think about the next milestone. We start to neglect other aspects of our lives. We lose balance. Maybe we forget why we were chasing that goal in the first place, and it becomes about achieving more and more.  That’s what I call pushing, and it’s no longer intentional. We just do it. 

Think about your own life. Is there something you’re chasing that maybe you don’t actually want? Or what you want has changed? Or maybe the reason you want it isn’t important anymore? 

So why do we do this? Why would we push towards something at the expense of other parts of our life? Or push towards something that we don’t even want anymore?

This is Angie 

“In like relationships I’ve been in a couple that were for too long. One of them I was even engaged. And I call it off a month before we got married. And hindsight is always 2020. But I feel that the biggest thing, maybe that I’ve learned now, are, you’re so afraid of judgment of other people, because you’re going to be a failure, if you’ve been in the relationship for so long, or if you’ve had multiple relationships, now you’re a failure, because I’ve had multiple relationships, and none of them have worked out. So there’s something wrong with me.”

I was talking to Angie about why we stay. We stay in jobs for too long, relationships for too long.  

And specifically,  in the case of pushing vs driving is that it feels like you’re moving forward in life. It feels like you’re reaching your goals. 

The Strength to Let Go of a Planned Future

“Around the time we got engaged, because it was like, you know, that’s the next step. So you, you date somebody, you create the relationship, you get to know each other, you make the sacrifices, you talk about the future, you think about the future. And that’s all very exciting, because that is that is a goal, or a major step in our life, that is lifelong. I think, we’ve also put it on a level of success. And so like, once I get married, I’m successful. And I’ve done that, and I’ve accomplished it.  It was more in my head, I was checking off boxes. And that genuine excitement that genuine, like, I can’t wait for this to happen was gone. It was just this is the next phase that you’re doing, you know, you you send out the invitations, or you design the invitations, you send them out, you make your lists, right, you buy the dress, you buy these things, you book, the honeymoon, you you know those orders, so you just kind of get caught up in that.”

Whether it’s a relationship, or a career, we start chasing it with good intentions. We have goals, we want to feel fulfilled and accomplished and loved. 

And then we put our heads down and follow the path. How often do you stop and ask yourself, is this still what I want?  Is this how I want it? What am I willing to trade to continue on this path?  Why am I doing this? 

Is it social pressure, my success metrics, my ego, my feeling of responsibility, my identity, momentum of what I already started? 

Angie ignored her hesitation about her relationship until finally, her body told her to start paying attention. 

“I was already so far in and you had made all these plans like I had up and moved, I’d quit my dream job. I had a wedding dress like we had wedding, like major plans and plane tickets and, and a bunch of details and tons of RSVPs. And so that really messes with your mind. And then you let it mess with your mind. And then the more you shove it away at actually it just festers more, right and it builds and builds and grows. And then once I became like physically sick, that I knew at this point, like nothing’s actually going to change this. My inner conscience knew it knew and that physical illness is what finally like I was like, Okay, I know what it is. And I know what I gotta do.”

Our bodies, our families, our relationships sometimes fall apart before we realize what’s happening. We’re on autopilot, and then we have to start re-evaluating things like our boundaries, our priorities, our values. 

I’ve been here too, I like to be productive, and it’s only because I’ve seen so many patients go through something like this that I’ve been able to catch myself but even then, it takes effort, and sacrifice and even letting go of some of my ambition, or timelines and even changing the way I see success. 

If you’re thinking about what success means to you, listen to my 4 part series on Redefining Success back in season 2.

Awakening from Auto-Pilot

For Kristin, working extra was something she just did – it had become her automated reaction – because she thought it would bring her connection, and respect, and self confidence. 

Kristin  “I’ve done a lot of this introspection and also just as part of my healing journey. I’ve had to come to terms with a lot of these things already. And it came down to I grew up believing that my worth, my desirability, the extent that I could be loved I rested entirely on what I did, what I accomplished how I performed in life. So this illness was taking away my ability to do to accomplish and to perform. So without all of those things, I felt worthless and unlovable by anybody in life. And my identity was also wrapped up in what I was doing. So if I wasn’t a consultant anymore, if I wasn’t a crossfitter anymore, if I wasn’t a certain type of girlfriend or friend anymore, I was nobody. And that that is a situation that is uncomfortable for the conscious mind. But that is also a void, the unconscious mind will not let you face.”

And so Kristing pushed. She kept working even though her body was struggling. She pushed even though she was having energy crashes. And her body tried to communicate that something was wrong. It got louder and louder. And eventually she just couldn’t function anymore. She was forced to pay attention to her needs, her health, and not just her career.

Kristin  “I did not respect my body, my needs my existence as a human and not as a robot. And that absolutely prolonged my healing journey because it is what caused me to push myself so far deeper into the ground than I really think I needed to go.”

This is actually more common than we realize. So many of us push hard, for whatever reason. Then we get sick, we get some sort of wake up call.  

Finding Worth Beyond the Work

Kristin “You know, early on, what kept me going was the desire to get back to making money. Be honest, not a good reason. I definitely like definitely is but part partly kept me in the recovery relapse cycle was this push this pursuit for making good money again. And what finally sustained me. And I don’t want you to think I had to like leave my career to be, you know, a yoga teacher. To make this work. Like I went back to my career and continued in my career for years without relapsing, once I really learned how to work and how to approach work from a healthy sustainable way. But later on, what motivated me and kept me going was, was discovering my self worth, from a new way of having an identity, which is, I learned that I’m not what I do, because I can choose to different things. I am not what I accomplished, because I can choose what I pursue. There is a part of me that persisted, even when I’m not doing even when I can’t do. And once I learned to identify with the being. It opened up a whole new way to live.”

Pushing is sometimes hard to recognize. And when we do, we think – it’s just for another week, month, year. Just need this job until I buy a new house, just need to collect on my bonus, just need to stay in this relationship because we’re still figuring out where we’re going to live and then it’ll get better. 

And then after a while, it feels forced. We start to think, well I also want to do these other things. This isn’t stimulating anymore. I feel like I’m getting bored. I’m outgrowing this job, relationship, friendship. This doesn’t feel good anymore. I can’t keep up this pace. I can’t keep doing this. 

The reality is, the finish line is always going to move. There’s always another milestone, another thing to chase. More more more. At some point, we need to ask ourselves, do I still want to be running in this race? Is this the right race for me? 

Finding Confidence in Your Choices

So if you’re in pushing mode, or if you think you’re in pushing mode, here are a few questions to ask yourself. 

  • Is there something in my life that I’m resisting? Or something that feels uncomfortable? Why? 
  • How do I define success or happiness in this situation
    • Where did this definition come from? 
    • Does this definition serve me now? 
    • Do I need to redefine what I’m chasing? 
  • What is the cost of continuing on this path? How much am I willing to give up? 

And if you want more prompting questions, you can also get my journals on the website, I have a bunch of digital journals for clarity, career, self compassion, parenting, gratitude – you can get them at

Also stay tuned because in an upcoming episode I’m going to talk about how to start trusting yourself again.  

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Travel adventurer, joy seeker, book lover

Hi, I'm Rishma.
Your BFF + New
Life Strategist.

I ran a thriving healthcare practice as a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist for over 20 years. I also earned my PhD and spent time in academic research and teaching positions. Now, I read scientific studies because I'm passionate about personal growth. I use the insights to help me, and our community, live our own XO life.

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