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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.

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Len R. Gehl
8 years ago

Hey Denise glad to see the newsletter in my inbox I have been missing it! Good to hear you are back at it. Your topic today reminded me of something I read in success magazine recently. It said something along the lines of, When you make a mistake when driving your GPS does not give you a hard time about it, it just recalculates your route. You are right on target, give yourself a break, recalculate and continue on your path. Why waste the energy on giving yourself a hard time when you can not change the past, better to… Read more »

8 years ago

This was great. Worth the wait. Oh, and the feeling you have about not being with your Mom. I’m a mother and I can tell you, we don’t want our kids to feel residual guilt. You had to get the drive from somewhere and there’s a really good chance she understood why you fulfilled your obligation. I’d forgive my son anything because for him to be sad with regret would break my heart. So don’t let that memory invade the good stuff. Good luck with the hip and new home!

Ann Bowen
8 years ago

Hi Denise, As far as # 4 of “Overachieving…” goes, I don’t know when your Mom passed on but I came to one of your talks & you really motivated me to make some changes to make my life better. So, stop beating yourself up about not being there to tell your Mom goodbye. You were doing your job, which is helping other people. It’s a very important job. We need to hear what you have to tell us. I’m sure your Mom understood. Thank you for being there to give me a kick in the butt when I needed… Read more »

Renea Bullard
8 years ago

Been missing your news letter. Happy the hear all is well. Your news letter was a joy to read, we are our worst enemy. Thanks

Jaynean Scott
8 years ago

Hi Denise…. As I follow you on Facebook I am familiar with all you have had going on and you have been in my thoughts and prayers. I don’t know how much response you get from your news letters but I am here to tell you I look forward to them coming and this one in particular is exactly what I needed to hear at this time. Not for myself but for my husband. He has a job that requires him to travel and we have been dealing with the passing of his father, and placing his very difficult mother… Read more »

Ashley Stevens
8 years ago


I think this is very well written and speaks to me as well as those that i know.

Thank you,


Jennifer Hupp
8 years ago

Hi Denise, GREAT article and unfortunately, you described me “to the tee”. I am an “overachiever” and needed to hear some of the things you said. This past year has be a VERY tough year beginning last February. My parents have both been ill and out of the hospital 6 times. In fact, my mom was in one hospital and my dad in another when he was about to pass. I miraclulously managed to get him transported to her hospital two days before he passed away (November 21st)from prostrate cancer. I was soooo very close to him and it has… Read more »

8 years ago

THANK YOU, Denise! I sure needed to hear this today! And probably should print it, laminate it, and hang it up in my office!!!! My heart breaks to hear that story about your mom, I’m so sorry. Thanks for keeping it real, you rock Chocolate chic!

Julie Turnipseed
8 years ago

HI Denise, I hope you have recovered and are doing well. I met you in Missouri in Cape Girardeau at the MO Managers Meeting. You really, after 26 years, gave me permission to take time off and enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong I have taken time off and enough over those years but always felt like I should be at work or what was I missing. I am not sure what makes us into these people that think the job or world will end if we are not at work? I have come to believe that family and friends… Read more »

8 years ago

I’ve missed your newsletter, but glad you took for yourself, to heal, and to move. I have been battling the fight of obesity for the last 22 months, and still in the fight, but at the end of last year I took a break to recuperate and re-focus. Thank you “Great” newsletter!