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The Danger with Achievement

By February 13, 2015March 20th, 2017No Comments
We are encourged to always do more, be more, and achieve like mad.   It becomes addicting. You work hard towards your goal and then you are rewarded when you achieve it. The reward could be recognition, money, a medal, or even feeling like people love you more.  Fast forward through thousands of cycles of achievement.  People call you the over-achiever, the "Type A" personality.  They say things like, "I don’t understand she gets so much done, it’s amazing. Superwoman!"  More positive affirmation.  Pretty soon, you feed off that energy and you are going, going, going at a million miles an hour from the second you wake up to the moment your head hits the pillow.  You want to say yes to everyone and every opportunity. It feels so good to help people and to be successful doing it.  You generally love being busy and engaged in many projects….but some days you realize you are tired, burnt out at times, resenting the things you loved to do because you’re too busy.   You don’t get down time, you just want to relax, you just want to get 8 hours of sleep or not be in such a rush.
This is me.  I’ve always loved working hard.  It started in high school with trying to be the best tennis player on the team, the best flute player in the band, and getting the highest GPA in my class.   Then I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Electrical Engineering while holding a 30 hr/week job, taking full course loads, and trying to train and race as a pro athlete.  It was always a bit stressful, but I learned how to manage the stress and loved being busy.  Fast forward several years and here I am today.
I realized that I am addicted to being busy.I realized that a larger percentage of my self-worth is tied up with achieving things. Today, I am a full time professional athlete wearing every hat associated with it (from accountant to business manager to coach to travel agent) along with running a writing/marketing/speaking business on the side.  I LOVE what I do.  In fact, to a fault. I love it all and I want to do it ALL… TODAY!  I also travel constantly (which I am also addicted to) but have refused to accept the implications on my daily life. Over the years, I have gone through periods of exhaustion that follow periods of working like a madwoman; I won’t be able to effectively train and I will spend weeks riding an hour at a time hoping for my energy level to come back just in time for the next race.  My energy level during the day will be so low that I worry I’m sick. During these periods, I get frustrated with myself.  I wonder how I got here, how I wish that I had time to relax, wish I could say no to things and that I wouldn’t feel guilty for not doing everything to my max potential all the time.  I realize that I hold myself to too high of a standard.I realized that I need to expect myself to do less.That’s a hard one to grasp.  What should I expect from myself?
I am just now recovering from a 2 week period of feeling exhausted because I was doing too much.  I spent some time reflecting upon the points I just mentioned and had to come to terms with a few things.
I had a bike fit withBalance Pointyesterday which I’ll be posting about later.  Luke and I spent some time assessing goals along with a psychologal assessment.  I hadn’t really talked out loud about some of my goals for the year. I found myself saying I wanted to spend more time on recovery, have more down time, do less so I could enjoy life and relationships even more instead of always being in a rush.
I feel lucky that in my life, 100% of the things I am busy doing are things I love and am passionate about.  That’s why I always want to do more, I love what I do!  But I need to do a little less.
Here’s some things I came to terms with.  If you’re overbusy in your life and addicted to achievement, maybe these can help you too.
I need to learn to say no.

I love opportunity and projects, but I have to realize I cannot do them all.  I think big and dream big, so I feel empowered and capable but I have to see that I don’t have the energy to do everything at the same time.  I don’t have to do them all today. I met a friend for coffee this past week and I was proud that I said no to a project he proposed to me. It looked like fun and truth be told, I still want to be a part of it.  He said to me, "I wish I could say no to more things.  I want to do them all and then I get overwhelmed."  I told him I was working on the same things.The challenge is knowing when to say no and when to say yes.I’ll let you know what I come up with after I spend some more time thinking about it.

Don’t schedule things so close.My mom made me think about this one.  When I was visiting at Christmas, I literally made a schedule and put it on the fridge.  That schedule was packed so full that I didn’t have 10 minutes to spare anywhere.  My mom commented on it and I realized that it’s how I live my daily life.  I jam so much in a day that I don’t have room for spontaneity.  It is a shame and I’ll be late or in a frenzied rush if something goes over…which it always does.  That leads me to feeling more stressed because I have to be in a rush and frustrated if I am late.  It also means no time sitting still and no time for relaxation.  My solution for now is to pad more time before and after things in my calendar so I’m not in a rush, and actually schedule an hour of recreation time so I can stretch, play guitar, watch something on Netflix, read a book, meditate, or just simply lay down and close my eyes.  It’s hard for me because I want to get as much out of my day as possible. If I don’t pack my day full, it feels like I am doing something wrong or that I’m not being as efficient as possible.  I have to accept that it’s not good for me to do that even though I’m capable of it.   It’s like overtraining on the bike.I need to not overtrain in life.
Respect recovery.This falls more in line with the professional athlete side of things. Not riding is not good enough for recovery.  Recovery means taking that recreation time so the body and mind can relax. It also means not feeling guilty for not working harder at the computer on bike recovery days.  I need to stop making my recovery days even busier just because I have a couple extra hours that aren’t dedicated to riding my bike.
Stopping to reflect.

Reflect on where I am, what I’m doing today, what I’ve done this week or this year, and where I want to go.  My bike is often when I reflect on what I am doing, who I want to be, what I want in life.  I need to do this off the bike too.

Stay home.Just because a weekend in my calendar isn’t booked doesn’t mean that itshouldbe booked.  Again, the curse of being addicted to a jam-packed calendar.  The truth is I enjoy being home sometimes.  I live in an amazing place with fun things to do at home. I have my whole life to try to ride every cool trail and travel to all the places I want to visit.  I need to have a lazy Sunday morning every once in awhile.
My friendLizwrote this on Facebook the other day.  It really fell in line with things I’ve been thinking about—
Today, I see my life as "full." What’s the difference? To me, "busy" feels like I am a slave to Time, and that I have no choice but to run around trying to keep up, always off the back. "Full" means that I intentionally choose what gets to fill the minutes of my days, saying YES to the opportunities that make me come alive and that fulfill my deepest sense of purpose, and NO to everything else. I honor where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going. My life might be "full" from 5 am to 10 pm right now, and I may never be bored and have to schedule my "down time," but the direction I’m going, both the destination and the journey, has me thrilled. They are my choices that are filling my days. "Busy" and "full" may sound the same to many people- but somehow, to me, they are different.
I really liked her post.
I am slowing down to go faster.  I am slowing down to get more out of life.I am slowing down to be more successful.I even slowed way down on my bike for my winter training.  It sounds so weird to me.  My next step will be not feeling guilty for not swinging at every ball that flies my way; for not feeling lazy for not being busy every second.
Cheers to breaking down more barriers, getting the most of out life, and doing what you love!!

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