Enable Excellence | Are you a High Functioning Sleepwalker?
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Are you a High Functioning Sleepwalker?

Are you a High Functioning Sleepwalker?


I have a habit of re-reading books that I particularly enjoy.  Most of them seem to be science fiction and fantasy – it must be something about my enjoyment of escapism, but that’s another blog entry.

This time round I was re-reading the wonderful Station Eleven written by Emily St.John Mandel which vividly describes a post apocalyptic world and the events leading up to it.  In one particular passage a character was interviewing someone for a 360 feedback report on their boss and the interviewee refers to the boss as a “high-functioning sleepwalker”.  They clarify this further by saying “I think people like him think work is supposed to be drudgery punctuated by very occasional moments of happiness, but when I say happiness, I mostly mean distraction.”

This struck me so much that I had to stop reading.  I thought about myself and the people I have met in my corporate working life and I wondered how many of us fall into the trap of becoming high-functioning sleepwalkers.  The impact on me was so profound I was sure that others had picked up on this passage and written about it so I did a search and I found an article written by David Deady in the Huffington Post where he described reacting in the same way as me.

I asked myself, how many of us find ourselves yearning for the weekend; getting through the working day with a few sparks of happiness along the way?  How many of us look back at the past year and wonder at how the time has flown but can’t quite pin down what we have achieved in that time?  How many of us simply accept the drudgery as a curse of the working life?

The conclusion I drew was a mournful one so I thought I would share three simple things I do each day to draw myself out of my slumber.

Find beauty and joy in the things around you

It might be the solar-powered-flower-in-a-pot cheerfully waving away on a desk, the way the sunlight makes a particular pattern on the wall, or it could be listening to the laughter on the other side of the room.  Slow down and absorb it for a few minutes.  Do this at least once a day.

Take time out

Give yourself the permission to take a break.  The longer hours you work, the less effective you are.  Taking a break without purpose can be hard so give yourself one; meet a friend for coffee, go jogging, read a book.  Anything that breaks the pattern and gives you time to think.

Do something different

Make a conscious effort to break yourself out of your established way of working and living.  This might be to finish work early so you can attend the pottery night class you have always wanted to do or it could be a complete career change.  You might want to start small but whatever it is, be sure it is the right thing for you and be happy with it.

Some of this might be blindingly obvious but how often do we really challenge our own status-quo?  Do you want to live your life as a high-functioning sleepwalker?  The choice is yours!

  • Morag Warrack
    Posted at 22:24h, 15 October Reply

    Very true! Just noticing how we are behaving is the first step to actually doing something to improve our own lives- and as you quite rightly say, the changes can be tiny and still be important… and it can ripple out to helping others notice too!

    • enable
      Posted at 08:24h, 17 October Reply

      Hi Morag, thanks for your comment. I have noticed we often forget about the small things thinking that grander gestures or large changes will have a bigger impact. It isn’t always the case. Small changes are manageable and much easier to sustain until they become habit. Glad you liked my post.

    Posted at 17:17h, 07 November Reply

    Hi Debbie – I did recognise this in myself some time ago, and the impact it was having on my quality of life. I didn’t want to just get through a day; I wanted to challenged, stimulated and, ultimately, have control over how and when I worked. As you know, I made the small changes which eventually let me to retrain as a chimney sweep and I love it! Life is too precious to just make do if you can do more. Great article!

    • enable
      Posted at 19:02h, 08 November Reply

      Thanks Joanna! I was inspired by what you are doing and how you are going about it when we met. I can also recommend you highly for your chimney sweep work too!

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