As a recovering over-achiever I have noticed an almost opposite effect come to play in my life at times. Whereby I do all I possibly can to avoid over-achieving, for fear of the consequences, leaving me somewhat grinding my progress of any sort to a complete halt.
Given that an intrinsic need of mine (and come to think of it, all humans) is to feel like I’m growing and developing, this opposing force when it shows up feels just as terrifying to me. I don’t want to grind to a halt!
So how do you find a balance between the two ends of the spectrum?
For me, I want to feel like I’m growing, expanding and deepening my connection to myself, with somewhat of a guarantee that I’ll do so in a way that consistently feels nurturing and energising. For me, I also feel the distinction is between wanting to give something a go – just try it out to know a little bit more about how I feel—and to where I’m stalling myself completely from trying anything—putting up all sorts of barriers (excuses in the form of if, buts and maybes!) and using them as a distraction from a deeper fear.
Given we’re all (yep you too) wired for protection-mode to keep us safe from our fears, how do we get to that point of being able to act regardless of those fears being present? To step outside that boundary so that we can indeed grow?
In this case my deeper fear, or the thing I’m trying to protect myself from is the over-achieving itself, because it represents me going into over-drive and burn-out and I just don’t want to go there again.
One of my favourite ways to approach this has been through the lens of ‘chunking down’ – i.e. not trying to deal with everything all at once. The question that gets me to feel lighter and more relaxed instantly?
What’s the easiest thing that I could do right now?
It gets me to step out of fear-mode and into free-mode, because if I’m focused on easy then I’m focused on action too. It gives me the momentum to move forward from that frozen place fear often puts us in.
Tim Ferriss has shared his personal process, for what he calls ‘fear-setting’, (check out his TED talk HERE) as a way to rationalise his thoughts when they start getting a little looped and anxiety-provoking. I love how simple he makes this process.
Getting to a place where you have awareness over what triggers your instantaneous reaction to fear (because it is instant, it’s in built in your sub conscious mind) means you get back your control. You get to step out of that yo-yo loop between playing it too safe and over-drive. Because really those two ends of the yo-yo are also our ways of masking our deepest fears about ourselves.
In my case, playing it too safe and over-drive – a.k.a. people-pleasing, filling my diary up so much that I’m not resting, saying yes to everything, emotional eating, procrastination…and so many more – is my go-to behaviour to mask my fear of not belonging. The autopilot mode kicks in and I start telling myself things like:
“They might not like me if I don’t X, or if I do Y”
“I better just do this thing, because then I’ll fit in”
“If I just do this one extra thing, then they’ll think I’m great”
And before I know it, I’m right back in the whirlwind of that old pattern. Which brings me back to chunking it down. When you find yourself stuck in this merry—(or not so merry)—go-round one of the quickest ways to get yourself off, is to ask yourself:
What is the easiest thing I could do right now?
Meaning you get to focus on what IS in your control again. Sound too simple to be true? Sometimes the best things we can do for ourselves is to choose the path of least resistance after years of pushing and playing a part. Why not get curious about the path less travelled? It could just lead you to where you’ve been trying to go…
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