As an independent and self-confessed achievement addict, I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than compromise my work or risk disappointing someone. However, there is always room for compromise. This is something I learned the hard way, as the compromise was my health.
High-achievers aim to succeed at everything – at work, at home, in relationships, parenthood, the list goes on. The biggest challenge and wakeup call for me came when an obstacle was thrown in my way, which completely jolted my self-drive. A great big STOP sign, right in front of me. This was a time in my life when huge pressures were coming from all directions and even ‘resilient Jenny’ had to come to a grinding halt.
Although this crept up on me slowly, friends and family noticed sooner. After more subtle signs had failed to steer me off course, I was met with a bigger sign saying – no more, you need to stop, slow down or drop! I slowed a little but was jolted again; it was like the carpet has been whipped out from under my feet. This was the culmination of 7 years of intense pressure colliding with a series of tough life events.
It taught me that none of us are invincible and nothing is worth driving yourself that far into the ground for. I’ve bounced back, and although sometimes still wonder if it’s all worth it and what life would be like on top of a mountain or sitting in the wilderness, my mum says you’ve always liked achieving and you’d regret it if you didn’t keep trying!
So here are some insights that have helped me develop and cope:
1) Notice the pressure you put on yourself
This is the first step and it’s not easy as it goes to the core of who we are as high-achieving people. I’m not saying don’t take on pressure, just notice it! When someone suggested I take a bit of my own medicine and stop putting pressure on myself, I was annoyed. This is who I am and I just can’t do that. Let me share a little secret with you – it’s ok to knowingly put some pressure on yourself, it’s who we are and what we do to keep achieving. The message here is to notice and acknowledge just how much pressure you’re under.
2) Manage your expectations and timelines
An appointment with disappointment can occur when expectations are either too high, not managed correctly or when timelines are simply unrealistic. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t strive for the best but it’s worth considering the time you need to achieve this as well as the scale of what you’re undertaking. When we reduce the pressure on expectation and timing, we can move in the natural flow of emergence and discovery. Realising that things only move as quickly as they can do and even with sheer determination, sometimes there are factors we just can’t control.
Take time to think about what you promise to deliver and a realistic timeframe, which is achievable with your current workload. Don’t be afraid to push back or say no.
3) Ruthlessly prioritise
This is a tricky task when we have so many things to prioritise but this can be the most simple and immediate way to reduce the pressure on ourselves. To prioritise effectively, take the time to think about what you really want, as well as others – look at your personal life, working life and relationship to assess which aspirations are most important. What would you regret not doing or which people do you most want to spend most time with?
This exercise will help identify who you are and what you’re about. Why not spend time with a friend or trusted colleague and prioritise together? Only when we’ve identified our true prioritises can we ruthlessly make decisions about what we do and when.
4) You don’t have to do it all
This may seem ridiculous but it’s true – we don’t have to do everything. You’re allowed to ask for help! There are so many people around use that can help and support who may even be better than us at certain tasks. Yes, I said it, better than us at stuff. So, it’s time to start letting go and handing over. It might be to your partner, a team member, colleague or a friend but start having a think. Which tasks could you let go of to reduce pressure and help you feel good?
5) Handing back the burden
High achieving people have a dreadful habit of picking up a whole load of responsibility that’s not theirs. They can’t help themselves. Any bit of responsibility they just pick up and take as their own. It’s like an impulse. Oh look, there’s something that looks like it needs some of my super power help! Knowing that we can have a habit of picking up others troubles, burdens and responsibilities can sometimes be enough to just remind us that that we need to keep what’s ours and let others get on with theirs. Taking accountability is a good thing but carrying others burdens isn’t. Next time you feel like doing a sweep of others troubles, just say to yourself. That’s yours and this is mine. Don’t take it or hand back what’s not yours and just walk nicely along.
6) Love yourself first
Last but certainly not least, love yourself! I’ve left this until last because if you remember 1 tip from this article it should be this one.
This is the hardest lesson that I’ve learnt to date and I’m still learning – here are 3 simple exercises that you can try to work on this:
- Choose a time in your diary and make a date with yourself. 2 hours of interrupted time to do exactly what you want to do, for you.
- Everyday do one thing that makes you feel good. Sing, cook, walk, write, laugh or watch TV to unwind.
- Go and buy yourself some flowers. Put them in a vase and remember how beautiful you are.
Creating feel good habits
We must always remember that we can continue to achieve and feel good. We don’t have to feel depleted, empty and worn out to keep achieving.
We might not be able to have it all but we can keep feeling good whilst we try!
Please share your thoughts with us – we love to hear from you – as we are only reflections of one another and we learn together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenny Rossiter is a leading coach and human behaviour specialist and founder of Feel Good Leadership. Author of The Masks that Men Wear and The Masks that Women Wear, for more than 20 years she has delivered leadership coaching and programmes which challenge and inspire new thinking by using practical strategies and techniques to form healthy habits. Because people who feel good achieve extraordinary things.