Practical example for down-shifting:
Didn’t everybody tell you, you ought to make it to the top by any means if you can? That the top is where you have power, where you are free, where you have control and the like?
Forget it, that’s complete bullshit.
The truth is:
On the way to realizing the last bit of your entire maximum potential, you will have a lot of trouble, as you will have no reserves at the end. You will be stuck in political games or annoying clients you never have imagined, you will have bad sleep and no free time left as all your resources have to go into your career. You will lose valuable social ties, your health will decline and you might even find out that you cannot enjoy things anymore, which you used to like before.
This is the old 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the work can be done with 20% of your effort; the last 20% of the work require 80% of the effort.
So whoever tells you that you must always give 100%, let him do so if he wants but don’t follow his advice, because typically the additional returns aren’t worth the trouble.
Find out the max level you could reach in your job (that will be determined by your education, your cleverness, your skills, but also by your social status, maybe your looks, your connections and so on). Do this in a realistic way, don’t cheat yourself and don’t count on luck, “justice” or some other act of god.
Now take that maximum potential and subtract one level from it. This (or less) is what you should aim for. E.g. if you really think you could become a senior executive if you give 100%, you should better target being a lower grade executive and in return spend only let’s say 50% of your effort.
If you think you could be number 2 in your area of business, you should target being number 3 or 4 and save a lot of effort because the last mile is always the hardest.
This holds true for private matters as well. If you could squeeze in visiting 6 cities on your holiday trip, try to do only 3 or 4.
That way you will reach your goals relatively comfortably as you always have back-up resources at hand and your skills and nerves will not be stretched too much.
And you might very often find that with only 20% effort you can reach 80% of your maximum potential. No joke!