In the past I have celebrated “relentlessness.” Here is the first-listed definition of “relent”:
re·lent /rəˈlent/ abandon or mitigate a harsh intention or cruel treatment
I’m interested in abandoning all harsh intentions and cruel treatments. I’m switching to relentFULness.
It’s obvious where this comes from. We want to win and because we live in a coercive culture we assume that we can get more performance out of ourselves by pushing harder. The more painfully we can inflict harsh intentions and cruel treatments, the better our chances of winning.
One of the problems with inflicting harsh cruelty on ourselves is that we’re biologically programmed to avoid pain. That’s not a bug. It’s a feature. But the culture would have us believe it’s a bug.
When you’re relentless, you set up all the conditions that promote avoidance.
I’m not coming at this theoretically. I’ve now experimented with mitigating harsh and cruel treatment since before Christmas. Some results: I’ve exercised 75 days in a row, done my job better than ever before, and I’m actually working on “passion projects.”
Oh, and I feel good.
The joke is totally on relentlessness because I get way more done when I don’t treat myself like shit. Relentlessness does the opposite of what it claims. It both makes you sad and unhealthy and it causes you to do less.
The really tricky thing is that it seems relentfulness cannot be pursued for the sake of productivity. That’s relentlessness in disguise. And if, like me, relentlessness is all you’ve known, it’s very difficult to trust that relentfulness will lead anywhere good.
A belief can’t simply be claimed or mantra’d into power, particularly when there’s an opposing incumbent. For a new belief to win, the truth of it must be experienced directly.
Go easy on yourself. You may find, as I have, that relentlessness was never a virtue, or even useful.