To Do or Not To Do

Recently, I wrote about the dark side of achieving and how much I love to-do lists. There's something so satisfying about crossing things off as they get done. Being list-driven, however, has a negative side that can keep you limited and focused on tasks and activities, leaving little to no space for thinking, feeling and operating beyond the limited bubble of daily life. High achievers are pretty damn good at giving themselves tasks and getting them done. What they aren't so good at is making time and space for the activities that create huge rewards even if those rewards can't be measured. You know a whole lot about what to do and leave little space to identify what not to do. But that's really where your work begins when you are trying to make a shift in your life.

That's why I'm introducing the To Don't list.

We all walk around with loads of programming, patterns, and habits that are so ingrained in how we operate that we don't necessarily register them consciously. They are there in the background, dictating what we prioritize, generally more focused on meeting the needs of everyone else and putting ourselves last. But how do you stop doing that when it's second nature? When the thought of taking a break or doing something for yourself triggers guilt and anxiety? And that's just the little stuff. Imagine the magnitude of impact the inability to self-prioritize has on the trajectory of your life. If you stay stuck in the patterns and programming, you can expect things to remain just as they are, or possibly to get worse if you're tolerating situations, circumstances, and relationships that aren't tenable.

How to stop? By identifying and being conscious of what is not moving you forward so you can stop doing it. Obviously, this is not a one-and-done deal. If you identify that being a people-pleaser is ruining your life, you can't simply wave a wand, say "I shall no longer people-please" and be magically cured of this tendency. It's taken you a long time to get to where you are, and it will require some undoing. But it won't take you nearly as long as you think if you are consistent and committed to being conscious and interrupting your patterns instead of falling in line with them.

 
MM-ToDont-LeadAds.png
 

Don't get all overwhelmed considering the universe of To Don'ts you have to engage in to get yourself to a more aligned way of thinking and behaving. Of course, there are many, but you don't need to do them all right now.

There are a handful of high priority things to stop doing that will start to move you forward in a powerful way.

I'll be sharing some game-changing To Don'ts in my book, but for now, you can get your starter list by clicking subscribe and get it delivered straight to your inbox.

 
to-do-list-mock-up-ad-size.png
 
 
Name *
Name
 

Use Your Words

One of the most challenging aspects of being a truth teller is that it can feel like you're on an island. Friends, family, and coworkers look to you to be the person to say the thing that isn't easy to say, that might be triggering to the person receiving the message. For years, I assumed the role of the-person-who-always-tells-it-like-it-is and allowed that responsibility to be placed on my shoulders. To me, the alternative was worse - it wasn't okay to go on pretending that said issue wasn't an issue. If that meant I had to be the messenger so be it. But I've learned a lot as the messenger, and one thing, in particular, stands out:

If I let others make me the truth teller, I allow them to abdicate responsibility.

To stay disempowered and safe behind the invisible wall of silence that means the boat won't be rocked and the peace will be kept.

We live in a society that has programmed us to believe that likeability trumps the truth. It's more important to be "nice" and pleasing to others, even if it means we suffer because words that need an outlet stay inside of us. Conflict is to be avoided at all costs, and the unfortunate unsaid conclusion is that speaking up creates conflict. Speaking up may cause another to be triggered, but triggers are your friend.

If you can learn to look inward and examine why you've been triggered rather than becoming defensive and lashing out, you can see more clearly the elements of your own beliefs about yourself that may need to be addressed and improved. When you are willing to be kind rather than nice and be truthful, compassionate, and honest in your communication, you give others the opportunity to respond.

 
asking-beautiful-brainstorming-601170.jpg
 

Let me say that again: Speak up and give others the opportunity to respond.

Silence is the status quo's best friend. Don't like something but won't speak up? I guess you're doomed to more of the same. How can anything change if you won't vocalize how you feel or what you need? Far too many hope that others will meet unspoken expectations. Hope is not a strategy.

Avoidance isn't a strategy either.

Are you avoiding giving someone a response because you don't want to hurt their feelings? How is not responding at all a better option? Is lack of courtesy somehow better than honestly responding with "I'm sorry, I don't believe this is a fit for me at this time" or "You are on my mind and I will respond shortly" because you are genuinely busy at the moment?  Maybe you're not responding because you know the conversation that must be had will be a tough one.

So what? When you do the hard things, you grow. Your relationships improve, You become a better version of yourself.

Telling the truth isn't easy. No matter how gently and diplomatically you phrase it, if the person on the receiving end doesn't want to hear it, they will be defensive. You can't control the other person's reaction. That doesn't mean it's better to hold your peace. Give them a chance, they may surprise you. If they don't, you may need to evaluate whether continuing to be in a relationship or association in which honesty has no place is right for you going forward.

Truth can either improve your connections or break them. Either way, it sets you free.

the Dark Side of Achieving

There's a lot about being a high achiever that works for me. I love me some lists. The satisfaction I feel when I get to cross something off my list is a mini-high that keeps me going. If I do something that wasn't on my list, I'll add just so I can cross it off (admit it - you do it, too). My calendar is my best friend. It lays out my day in an organized way so that I know what I'm doing when and what I'm focusing on for the day. I can be type A about details. I can stay high-level when it makes sense, but I do like to know the ins and outs of any given situation. There's more, but I'm sure you get the gist. All of this works for me. Except for when it didn't. 

The double-edged sword of being a high achiever is that the same qualities that make you so awesome can also limit your forward movement.

When I first left my day-job, what I expected to be a brilliant sensation of freedom and lightness was instead a weird fog through which I meandered. I didn't know what to spend my time on. Hell, I couldn't even think straight. It was like someone had reached into my skull and mashed a bunch of neurons around. Obviously, I knew what I needed to be working on, but the gap between that and getting started felt more like a chasm. What the hell was my problem??

I'll tell you what my problem was: no one was telling me what to do.

I didn't have outside input for my list. Outlook was gone from my life and it had ruled my days for so long that living without it meant I spent too much time thinking about what to do first or next. When I made my own lists, I realized with anxiety that everything on it was new to me. I hadn't done a lot of it before, so there was no quick "I'll just knock this out" and move on available to me. I had been a speed-doer all my life.

Efficient like a machine until this experience showed me that my efficiency came from a place of mindlessness.

My list used to full of to-dos that I could get through quickly, without a lot of thought required because I had reached "expert" status on the tasks and activities that filled my days. You may be asking, "What's wrong with that? Isn't that a good thing?"

It's not a good thing when you realize you can do most of your life on autopilot. Where's the energy? The inspiration? 

The lives of high achievers are hyper-focused on accomplishment. You have to be productive, busy, efficient. Your tasks are measurable - there is an end product that you can see or touch. It's working for you, right? People tell you how good you are, the boss notices so you get the raise/bonus/promotion. You're rewarded for being this way.

But operating in this manner begins to narrow the tunnel around your mind.

tunnel.png

Doing is more important than being. Making sure everyone else gets what they need trumps any fleeting desire you may have for putting yourself on your to-do list. This is the stuff of burnout, my friends. It's repetitive. What used to be exciting can become rote. You do it to get through it. You start living for the weekends and rushing through your list so you can avoid opening your laptop at night. 

Life is not about moving from task to the next. You aren't here simply to produce and achieve. You're here to be. To experience. 

So how do you fix it? You begin by putting yourself on the list. 

Each day, put one thing on your to-do list that is all about YOU. It doesn't matter how small it is. Five minutes for meditation or journaling, a ten-minute walk, thirty minutes for a coffee meeting with a friend, the workout that you keep meaning to do but haven't made the time for. Once it's on your list, HONOR IT.

You should not be the first thing to get booted from your list.

If it makes you uncomfortable to think about putting yourself on the list and keeping yourself there, good. That's natural. You're not used to being a priority, and that little voice in your mind is going to pipe up with all kinds of useless input like "Are you sure you should be doing this?", "You don't have time for this", or "It's selfish - you should be doing x, y or z." This is your opportunity to tune in and see what's really going on in your mind. What are you telling yourself? How are you keeping yourself stuck? Observe, jot it down, then do the thing that's for you, anyway. 

I want to hear from you! How did it feel? What did you realize? 

Are you a high achiever in need of a mental reset?

woke+up+tired.jpg

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you feel like something is missing from your life, but can’t quite identify what it is?

  2. Do you hope that the next raise or bonus will make you feel better, only to find out that it only brings temporary relief?

  3. Have you hit that high-title job status...and you’re still not happy?

  4. Are you stuck in survival mode, too busy to put yourself first?

  5. Do you wonder if there must be something wrong with you and worry that you’ll never be satisfied?

If you answered yes, or even felt a “maybe” to one of all of these questions,

You are likely a high achiever.

This doesn’t mean you’re a major stress case, in fact, maybe you’re doing okay, but you still feel as if there should be something more.  

I am a high achiever, and not so long ago, I answered yes to all of those questions.

I felt like something was missing. Big time. I had no idea what it is was or how to get it.

I wanted more money to make it better.  Instead, the more money I made, the less awesome I felt. Each money goal I achieved put a spotlight on the reality that the money couldn’t fill the void or make my life better internally.

I had the job I always wanted and was the least happy I’d ever been. At the height of my career, managing a business unit with high visibility, where I thought I always wanted to be, making more money than I ever had, I was miserable.

I was stuck in the loop of doing, rarely taking the time out to put myself first.
As strange as it may sound, I didn’t know how to put myself first. It was a foreign concept. I would feel guilty when I attempted to, as if taking the time for me was exceedingly self-indulgent.

I worried that something was fundamentally wrong with me. I had everything I wanted but was so unsatisfied. It made no sense to me why I was restless and unfulfilled.  I thought, “I’m damaged in some fundamental way. Why can’t I be happy?”

If any of this sounds familiar to you, take heart. There’s nothing wrong with you. But your bar is too freaking low when it comes to what you expect for YOU. You can be amazing and wondrous and a force to behold professionally and simultaneously ignore who you are as a human, continuing to expect your professional success to magically create feelings of excitement, inspiration, fulfillment, [insert favorite word here].

High-achievers come to a place of stagnation because survival is good enough. You rarely tip the balance into truly experiencing your life more often than not. You grind it out. To want more is unrealistic and perhaps even silly. After all, this is what your parents did and your friends do now.

Suck it up, buttercup. Maybe buy an expensive toy or take an extravagant trip to fill the void. Deal with it and settle in. This is your life.

Right? RIGHT??

When I examined my own experience, I realized that though the circumstances of our lives varied, many of my coworkers felt similarly to me. They had it “all”, but it didn’t feel like much. They were exhausted, put upon, bored, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out, running on fumes, irritable, frustrated–the list goes on. Oddly, it reassured me that I wasn’t alone. Not in a misery-loves-company kind of way, but in a way that sparked the thought that we all shared something in common that could be identified with the right tools, if I could find them.

I did some research and decided to start by reading self-help books. I scanned summaries, looked at reviews, and ultimately decided to begin with books that had a more spiritual bent because every business-oriented book out there felt much too “corporate” and formulaic to me. I made progress. Each book had something valuable and insightful to offer that would move me a few steps forward, but ultimately I would get stuck again. The way I operated was so ingrained and embedded that getting my brain to think in new ways was harder than I anticipated.

I kept at it. It took time and energy, trial and error. Now it’s my mission to share what I’ve learned with other high achievers so you can do the work with guidance and clarity around what to do and why.

As successful as you are, you can’t take your life to the next level without doing the deep work to transform the way you see yourself and raise the bar for what you expect from life.

The way you live has been dictated from the outside with little to no input from you. How can you possibly expect fulfillment if what you want isn’t at the heart of all you do?

How to begin? As you go through your day, pay attention to your mental chatter. Do you find yourself saying "“I’ll be okay,” “It will be fine,” “I’m alright” or other words that suggest you are settling? Write it down. The only thing you need to do right now is be aware. It can be very uncomfortable to admit consciously, but it’s the first and necessary step in the direction of living a life that’s aligned to you.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up for my newsletter to get my guide to put out the day fires, “To Don’t Lists For High Achievers” and get news on my forthcoming book The High Achiever’s Guide.

Coporate Exit - Update Part 1

AC(12of43).jpg

The other day I met with one of my favorite people from my corporate days. As we were catching up, she was like, "Um, I don't think people know this is what you're doing now. Why don't you write an update blog?" Of course, this was a fantastic idea. So thanks to T, here is part 1 of my update. 

As I reviewed part 4 of my exit story this morning, the date of that post struck me. I didn't know it at the time, but my newly established professional life was about to get rocked in many ways. So let me tell you what's been happening since I last updated you. 

In late September, I went to Las Vegas for back to back events. The first event was relevant to my coaching business, and the second was for my network marketing business. I had very much been looking forward to the trip. I had the opportunity to meet and network with many new and like-minded people, and I was getting the chance to finally meet members of my network marketing team I had never met in person before. It turns out that week was pivotal for me, although I didn't realize it until a little later. 

After the first event ended, I had moved from one hotel to the next, preparing for a couple of days of down time before event #2. I was exhausted from 3 packed days and had been debating whether to walk around a bit and get some air, or hole up in my room, watch a movie and get some sleep. The latter option sounded fantastic to me, so I let my husband know I was in my room for the night and went to bed. 

That was the night of the mass shooting at Mandalay Bay, which I could see from my hotel room window. 

I had no idea what was happening, of course. The intercom in the hotel came on a couple of times and people were directed to stay in their rooms, but I figured someone had lost a little too much money at a table in the casino, was losing it, and it was a safety precaution to keep people out of the fray. When I woke up at 6 am Pacific time, I had dozens of messages on my phone. The first of which was an alarming "Please tell me you're okay." Still having no idea what had happened, I turned on the TV, put on the news, and went into shock. 

I can't tell you what a surreal and heartbreaking experience it was to be there. All I wanted was to get on the first plane home. I felt desperate for my children. I was devastated, as were so many there and across the country, at this senseless act that robbed people of their lives at what was supposed to be a fun event. It felt like nothing was sacred. It was bizarre to be on the strip and see it almost desolate. People weren't out in full force the first couple of days. There were police EVERYWHERE. But by day 3, things seemed pretty normal. The second event went on as planned, people came into the city to have fun as planned, and life went on. As it should be, because fear should never rule the way we live. But internally, I wasn't ready. I didn't feel like having fun. I didn't want to be there. It was like sensory overload, a complete mismatch between how I felt inside and the environment that surrounded me on the outside. 

I hung in there, met my amazing team members, did a fun photo shoot, and returned home at the end of the week, incredibly grateful to be home safely and to see my family again. I had my first public speaking opportunity at the end of October, so I put my head down and got to preparing for that. I've presented many, many times in my life. It was a key part of what I did in my corporate role, but this was so different. It was the first time I was going to present my own content, and I was so nervous. 

That first speaking event changed my life. 

For the first time ever in a presentation, I got to be 100% me. I told my story, shared my thoughts on how to process where you are, where you want to be, what stops people and how to start moving forward. I talked about our programming, the patterns we get stuck in, the role of our egos and fear in keeping us stuck. And I had the attention of every single person in the room. People wanted to talk to me afterwards. I got messages from people I hadn't met directly who said they were there and wanted to thank me for saying words that they needed to hear at that particular point in their lives.

It was incredibly humbling. It felt like the final number in a combination lock had clicked into place. I knew then and there that I had found my purpose. I had suspected it was my calling when I left my job, but at that moment Certainty walked in, cool and calm as can be, sat down, crossed its legs, checked out its nails, looked at me and said "Yep."

That trip to Las Vegas was pivotal to my preparation for that day. Some part of me felt like I owed it myself and the people who lost their lives to put myself out there full on, because they would never get that chance. And I have no guarantees, either; none of us do. And it wasn't just about me anymore. The fact that people said my words helped them meant I had no right to keep them to myself. 

That day triggered a series of opportunities and events that have been nearly stunning to me. The speed of the forward momentum is exhilarating (and I can't wait to share in a future post how everyone can create and find this kind of momentum!), and not without it's nerves. The irony is that all of this forward motion has been largely hidden from my public life. I stopped posting on Instagram and Facebook. I didn't realize until T reminded me that my feed continued to grow as I was tagged by others, but most of those posts are related to the network marketing business, and it made it seem as if that has been my focus. It hasn't, not because it's not an awesome company or group of people, but it's not aligned with *my* true purpose. 

And so, true confession: I don't like social media. I never have. Part of why I joined the network marketing business was to get better at it, to see if being better at it would make me feel differently. It definitely got easier, but not natural for me, as it is for so many of the amazing people I've met through that business. And after Vegas and my first talk, I decided in order to really be true to myself and what I intend to create in my life, I needed to drop focus on that and continue creating in-person connections, which does energize me and come naturally.

But now it's time to become visible again, in the balanced way that works best for me. I have so many exciting things to share about what I'm doing now and what's coming next...Part 2 of my update coming very soon!

Photo credit: Naomi Read Photography

 

Don't feed the loop of doom.

devon-janse-van-rensburg-203416.jpg

Do you ever say to yourself "I shouldn't have [fill in the blank]?" 

"I should never have trusted Mary."
"I shouldn't have married your father."
"I shouldn't have accepted that invitation."
"I shouldn't have taken that job."

Hindsight is 20/20. 

We spend waaaay too much time regretting decisions we've made. And why is that? You make decisions based on the information and experience you have at the time. Can you predict the future? Do you have any idea how something is going to turn out.? No, of course you don't. Yet so often we think that the key to making a decision is knowing the outcome. 

Uh, hello? How can you possibly know the outcome of something before you've actually done the thing you're deciding to do? And if knowing the outcome is something you think you need to have when making a decision, you're screwed. I hate to break it to you, but you'll never know. You can make educated guesses and project, but you don't really know. Not for sure. And it's important you rid yourself of that expectation if you don't want to remain paralyzed by indecision. 

When thinking about triggering situations and circumstances, you have to be incredibly mindful about the way you process your emotions. Emotions operate on a feedback loop. The more you feel something, the more you're going to feel it. For example, if when you get angry, you give vent to your rage - scream, yell, cuss up a storm - and allow it to swallow you up, you're going to get angrier and stay angry longer if you aren't careful to constructively express your anger. You are human and you are going to experience emotions. Anger is actually a really helpful one if you harness it correctly. But freaking the eff out just to freak the eff out doesn't serve you.  The same holds true for feeling hurt, regret, frustration, etc. The more you stay in the place of immersion in the emotion, the more likely that you'll get stuck there and the emotion will continue to feed on itself.

Instead, place a limit on it. Say to yourself "I'm really [insert emotion here] right now and I'm going to give myself 5 whole minutes to lose my shit then I'm going to process what I got out of this." 

Regret is a complete and utter waste of your time. Instead of spending time browbeating yourself for making a decision that led to a less than ideal outcome, take some time to process what you *gained* from the situation. There's pretty much no chance at all that you didn't learn something. You learned something from whatever experience you now feel you shouldn't have had. Staying in regret places you in a victim mindset. You think of it as something that happened to you instead of an experience that provided you with a valuable understanding.

An experience that you participated in, by the way. You made a choice that put you on that path, whatever it is. Own it, make the most of it, and move on from it. 

Important note here. Positive emotions operate on a feedback loop, too. The more you allow yourself to feel good, the better you're going to feel. We place too much emphasis on the negative and don't bask enough in the positive. You're in control of you react and how good or bad you feel. 

Take some time to think about a regret that's been eating you and do the exercise above. Let it go so you can move on to bigger and better things. 

Photo by Devon Janse van Rensburg