Thinking causes stress, but stress in and of itself only becomes (“real”) stress iff it is on levels which appear to guarantee failure. Thus, the best thinkers and the most efficient people all around do not think at those levels.
Everyone has things to do, and other things to do – ordering is important, but also important is its scaling to time. How often will you go from one list to the other? After how many things checked off on your to-do list will you let yourself have “free time” to do those other things? Those “other” things are, after all, what give the main list their meaning. It is what allows one to think of incentives as things which happen to be there and are reminders of significance, rather than threat of punishment and the end of the world if whatever you’re doing is not executed correctly.
Compare for instance, allowing yourself to relax after you’ve done what you’ve needed for the day, to allowing yourself to relax after you’ve done what you’ve needed for the year. Theoretically, and this is why most people act in this way, the latter version is better. I think the evidence shows that this scale is probably not the main mode of human operation – getting drunk on weekends, going to random parties, slacking off here and there; all these are simple unorganized versions of doing those “other” things.
Perhaps it is true that the top CEOs do think on the year scale, but again, it is probably not their main mode of operation. It is not impossible, after all, to have multiple overlaying schedules – perhaps they operate on a daily schedule, but every so often they do more than they are assigned (either by themselves or by others), and it adds up to finishing the monthly schedule early, which perhaps then warrants a fancy dinner somewhere.
It does not really matter what mode you can work up to or what mode you mainly operate it – perhaps there is a most efficient way according to biological and evolutionary reasons, that humans are best at organizing and working if they do things per day, or maybe it’s per two days, but we don’t need to worry about that too much. The main point is to have a mode as order is always better than disorder, and disorder really is what we can call most people’s activities. No point in discussing specifics when the fundamentals don’t yet exist.
This is probably what scares people away from making goals. Completely ignoring the irrelevant case of setting goals too easy to achieve, it is more or less natural to see goals as easier to achieve the more you achieve them. As balance is always hard to create, it is inevitable that projects seem to become harder and harder to complete. The obvious thing in demand is thus “a break”, which has thoroughly been recognized by this culture.
What’s not recognized so much is that having “a break” needs to be ordered too. Without a designated niche, “breaks” pop up more and more often as the experience of achieving goals, and thus stress, increases.
A complete ordered system cannot have one part which operates in a completely different manner, after all.
For the same reason, it is probably not useful to think of them as “breaks”. I have no suggestions for alternative wording.
Perhaps “Alternatives” works?