If you’ve ever been to a petting zoo, you know the goats jump all over you, either to eat the food you purchased or to nibble on whatever else you may have with you. Mostly, they are obnoxious. But when I was on the goat trek where the animals were free to roam in the woods, they acted more like docile dogs. If I could have taken one home as a pet, I would have welcomed it.
My experience reminded me of the quote from Zen Master Shunryū Suzuki: “The best way to control cow and sheep is to give them a big grazing field.”
It works for people as well. If you feel constrained, whether from too little time or autonomy, too little money, or any other factor, things begin to close in on you, and the constraint becomes an additional negative factor to contend with. You feel the original pressure and now the weight of being under the gun. Under stress, you often (metaphorically) jump all over people.
We do our best work when we have the equivalent of a “big grazing field.” Intentionally try to create one for yourself and your staff. Allow ample time to complete projects. Build in buffers. Be conservative in setting deadlines and delivery expectations. Create free time in your personal schedule to recharge and reduce some of the pressures. Don’t overschedule weekends and vacations.
Creating space may feel like a luxury but in reality, it provides the freedom to be your best self.