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Overachieving at Overachieving

I don’t know where the time goes. It seems like I just got out an issue of this newsletter, but it’s been 6 months! So there was a hip replacement in there – that hardly counts as a reason not to execute. And yeah, I sold my home (myself) and moved, but life happens. I have no excuse! I am so slack! (Sound familiar?)

It happens to everyone. Life events come up and they take time and attention. The hard part for most of us is giving ourselves permission to deal with them.

Like many of you (and I know a lot of you, so don’t deny it!), I put a lot of pressure on myself. This newsletter is a great example – if it never came out again, the world wouldn’t end. Probably some of you might wonder if I died or something, but for the most part, nothing would happen. But I feel like a failure when I can’t manage to get ‘er done. Remember the last time you beat yourself up because something at work didn’t turn out as great as you wanted it to? Or for those of you who have kids – how about all the time you’ve spent worrying if you did something wrong? Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Now, I’m a firm believer in hard work and pushing for excellence. I want every single one of us to become the best person we can. However, I also know that sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break. Here are some thoughts:

1. There is no finish line, so quit trying to cross it. Screwed up at work yesterday? Well, guess what? Unless you did something illegal, there will be plenty of work for you to not screw up tomorrow. Regret yelling at your child/spouse/dog? Well you’ve got plenty of future interactions to get it right. Life is a long journey.

Now some of you may be arguing – but there is a finish line! There’s my annual review! My high school reunion! You’re missing my point. Us overachievers have to take a broader perspective. Life is long and missing your goal one year is not the end of it. Just like achieving your goal one year is not the end of it. Think how many people lose weight just to gain it all back. Any one day or month or even year does not a career (or a healthy life or a relationship) make.

2. Accept that you are going to screw up. You are. I am. The President does. We all do. Despite our best efforts we are going to make mistakes. Don’t be harder on yourself than anyone else is. No one expects you to be perfect. Learn from it, do your best to fix it, then move on. Face it, if you could have done it better, you would have. You did your best – that’s who you are. Let it go and do better next time.

3. Give yourself permission to deal with stuff. If you get sick, give yourself permission to get better. After the hip replacement, I had to tell myself it was okay to rehab. Seriously, just sitting around and being on pain meds seemed like sheer laziness!* There were newsletters to write for God’s sake! I had to have a meeting with myself (I think that might be insane, but I do it anyway) and remind myself that I just had major surgery and my current job was to recover. It’s okay to not have the house spotless if you have a big project at work. It’s okay to go to your boss and ask for help if your child is really sick. Have a meeting with yourself and get some clarity!

Here’s why we overachievers struggle with this – we don’t want to be seen as weak, incompetent, slack.

I’m here to tell you – you aren’t. Yeah, a lot of people are. They make sure they take every sick day, because it’s “owed” to them. They never come to work early and they are first out the door. This is not you! Ease up. Sometimes you simply have to deal with things that may not be directly related to your success. They may be inconvenient and annoying, but are important to the bigger picture.

4. No one cares as much as you. I’ll use myself as an example. Several years ago my Mom was very ill and I had a speech scheduled. I didn’t want to be someone who would cancel on her clients – that was unacceptable to me. They had planned this event for a long time, they were counting on me. While I was out speaking, my Mom passed away. I wasn’t there and didn’t get to say goodbye. The client probably doesn’t even remember me, but I’ll carry that guilt and regret for the rest of my days.

5. If stuff never comes up, maybe you aren’t living richly enough. Love this quote by Goethe, “He who lives but to save his life, is already dead.” Not all the stuff is bad, some of it’s just unplanned or inconvenient. Moving has been a great thing, but what a pain! Not productive in the least! Almost everything in life that’s worth doing means taking a chance, spending some time that may or may not be productive in the long run.

6. There really is a time to reap and a time to sow. Us overachievers just have time with the part in the middle – the whole growing thing. It seems a waste of time, nothing seems to be happening! We need to do something! Can we reap yet? Should we sow some more? The art of life is knowing when to rest and when to work. When to deal with drama and when to tell people to suck it up. When to ease up and when to push harder. And the only guides you’re going to get are your own health (or lack thereof) and happiness (or lack thereof).

7. Life really isn’t a competition. We often compare ourselves with others, who seem somehow to have major surgery, move, write a book, have two kids and run for office at the same time. We feel inadequate, inferior. But at the end of the day, what other people are doing doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is your happiness.

And if you need me to speak at that next meeting you hold with yourself, I’ll be glad to.

*I realize some people have chosen this as a way of life, but I feel confident no one reading a motivational newsletter falls in that category.