Hello everybody, welcome to episode 187 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's questions comes from an overachiever who's concerned about burnout.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Today’s episode goes out to the over-achievers out there. Our listener, especially after an exhausting series of recent circumstances, is feeling perpetually behind and looking for some help. I wonder just how deep these feelings go, however, and if she might be falling into a common trap for those who love to constantly pursue more. Let’s talk about how to navigate these feelings and over-achieve the right way. Here’s what’s on her mind…
QUESTION: “I’m feel like I’m just behind. I’m working remotely in a new job that’s also new to the company; my three-year-old is home with us because of the pandemic; we’re also planning a move.
It’s tough to be an “overachiever” who GETS to be in charge of her own destiny but also struggles with the feeling of wanting to always just squeeze in a little more or do things a little better or take on just one more thing.
A friend and I have decided to banish “being behind” as a whole concept for the month of January, so that decision has shifted my thinking a little bit so far!”
The Idea of Being Behind
Ok, good question, thank you for sending this in. I love this commitment you and your friend have made to tackle January together. Very goal oriented of you to go into this with an accountability buddy; no surprise there.
I’m curious to know what strategy it is that you two are deploying to banish the idea of being behind. Are you just trying to pretend you’re not feeling behind and blocking it out by telling yourself to shut up whenever the thought of being behind crosses your mind?
Or are you taking steps to either catch up or redefine what it means to be behind?
For your sake, I’d hope it’s the latter.
Being an Overachiever and Doing More
I’d say that I don’t want to reach when I assume that you’re always feeling behind no matter what, but you did mention always wanting to squeeze in a little more. And this makes sense.
For overachievers like yourself, doing more and making sure each little bit of time and energy is used can become an addiction. God forbid there’s any downtime.
This is an innate quality of anyone who desires to achieve more, and something that’s tough to silence.
For that reason, I think that the current circumstances you mention about being in a new job, having the child home with you and planning a move are not really the causes of you feeling behind. They’re definitely big, unfamiliar transition periods which stand to surface or amplify the problem more so than other, smaller conquests, but if the feeling of needing to do more is there anyway, it’ll only get marginally better when these current issues become solved or more comfortable.
The itch of not ever doing quite enough will still be around, though.
So let’s talk about the itch itself rather than what’s currently on your plate right now.
Overachievers and The Drive to Accomplish More
You need to decide if the annoyance of always wanting to do a little bit more outweighs the drive to accomplish more.
A question to help you uncover this might be: how much time have you taken or do you take to appreciate that which you’ve accomplished so far? Do you ever enjoy it and take pride in it, or are you constantly on to the next thing?
If an overachiever is who you are and a long-time pattern of yours, then you have enough time and evidence under your belt to look back on and derive some accurate results from.
If you never find yourself reflecting favorably and patting yourself on the back for your accomplishments, getting to a place in which you’re doing that isn’t going to happen over night. It’d take a lot of reframing. To me, that reframing would be worth it, though.
Because if being an overachiever is a natural groove you fall into, simply turning it off is not really in the cards. You’d probably drive yourself crazy if you deliberately tried to do less. That’d be a huge identity change and you’d willingly go against a lifestyle that you care about.
So how can you honor who you are, but not be forever doomed to feel as though not enough is being done?
Even if you love the rush of always being on the go, you’re going to need some sense of satisfaction to keep you afloat.
Being in Charge Of Your Destiny
One thing I love you mentioned I that you GET to be in charge of your own destiny, which, so the listeners know, you sent to me in all caps.
In case anyone’s missing why she did that, she’s making the distinction between being the one to carve her own life versus being helpless and just hoping for the best. This, of course, screams go-getter.
So if you believe that you’re in charge of your own destiny, my advice is to start doing the work necessary to make sure you appreciate what you’ve done a little bit more. This might include keeping specific track of your progress in certain areas, so your accomplishments show up as hard, well-defined figures.
It might also include more time speaking aloud that which you’re thankful for or helping others who were once in your shoes (or even less fortunate).
You could even go so far as to not allow yourself to do certain tasks on certain days, with the emphasis being to live with and bask in what you currently have without the option of stockpiling more.
Being an Overachiever: Conclusion
If this sounds frightening or makes you concerned that you might lose your edge, don’t worry about that.
Achievement is hardwired into you and it will always be there so long as you start achieving in a way that doesn’t cause burnout. And achieving in the right way (or altering your approach in the right way) is not about doing less as much as it’s about appreciating what you’ve done and striving for more not because you need to, but because you enjoy the challenge.
Some might call it lowering our standards, but without some degree of gratitude for what you’ve already done, you’ll stay in this rat race of constantly needing more, burning out, not enjoying the fruits of your labor, and never stopping to smell the roses.
Personally, I feel that if this change doesn’t happen, you run a greater risk of running out of energy, not being able to strive for more, and being dissatisfied and upset with yourself, calling yourself lazy and unmotivated without knowing why.
So if you believe in being a go-getter, learn to do it in a way that’s slow and steady, unattached to the idea of needing to do more.
I’d think this is the only approach that’d give you the endurance to do it for as long as you want to, having fun while you do it, and having no regrets down the road.
And that will do it, everyone. Frankly, whether it’s over-achieving, over-analyzing, or overdoing many other things, they aren’t always bad. Of course each situation is unique, but the pursuit of more is always best served with a dish of gratitude and recognition for what you’ve already done.
And this will also help in preventing you from doing more than is necessary sometimes. For example, if we’re talking about overthinking, sometimes we can think more and more until we come to the right conclusions. But if we take time to reflect on the thoughts we’ve already had, not only can we be grateful for what we’ve already learned, but we may find that we’ve already come to the best conclusion, thus preventing us from wanting to probe further.
So don’t shame yourself for overdoing, but reflect on its contents, how necessary it is, how far you’ve come, and you’re likely to be on a healthier path moving forward, whatever that path needs to be. So we’re going to end now.
Thank you friends for listening today, thank you for supporting the show, I hope you had some good takeaways, and I’ll look forward to being back with you all in 188. Until then.