Quelling my Inner Over-Achiever

In Work/Life Balance on January 7, 2013 at 11:09 pm
Beautiful winter sky before sunset.

Beautiful winter sky before sunset.

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a delightful holiday. It’s about this time every year that the post-holiday hangover kicks in, that precise moment when we realize that the fun is over (for now) and we have to get back to our normal lives. Laundry, grocery shopping, paying the bills…the list goes on and on. I feel the post-holiday hangover too, but I am excited about what lies ahead.

Granted, I am typically an optimist, so I can’t help but think of all the possibility that comes with each new year. It’s not quite a tabula rasa situation, but there is some kind of mental release, perhaps a willingness to forgive ourselves for past mistakes and lapses, and an embracing of renewal and improvement that makes the new year always seem brighter. I am reminded of a Vietnamese friend who shared the Tet tradition of throwing out all the old chopsticks from the past year as a symbolic gesture of ushering out the old and welcoming the new. I am drawn to such meaningful gestures, however small they may seem.

My own new year’s tradition would not be complete without setting some goals for the coming months. Instead of choosing broad, over-arching resolutions for the entire year, I prefer to set smaller, achievable goals for each quarter, which help me track my progress and, if need be, can be tweaked for subsequent quarters. I know that certain quarters have begun to embrace the “no goal” lifestyle (think Leo Babauta), but as a strong “J”  in the Myers-Briggs world, I find that setting goals helps direct my energy in a constructive way. There are times when I wish I could simply “let go” and let life happen as it may, and I think I’ve succeeded in doing more of that over the last few years. For me, “letting go” is only possible, however, within the context of some basic guideposts.

I’ve set two goals for the next three months. Goal 1: Write for at least 45 minutes every morning. I chose the morning because I really am a morning person – I’d much rather wake up an hour early than stay awake an hour later. The early mornings are also free of distractions. My partner is still soundly snoring in bed, our noisy neighbors are dreaming of sheep, and it’s just me, my cup of tea, and my thoughts.

Goal 2: Meditate for at least 10 minutes each day. This is the part where I admit that this particular goal is being resurrected from last year. Exactly one year ago I set out to start a daily meditation habit…and failed miserably. Part of this had to do with setting too many goals. Part of it had to do with not following through on my commitment. I failed, and I recognize it, but now I really want to make it happen. The peace of mind, clarity, and focus (i.e. “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time” ala Tony Schwartz) that come from meditation will be most welcome in my daily life.

The fact that I’ve narrowed my vision down to two goals doesn’t mean that these are the only areas that I’d like to improve. If I were to write a sample list of all of my unachieved goals and desires, it’d look something like this: do more yoga, eat less meat, spend less money, play the piano more frequently, get rid of extraneous belongings, practice random acts of kindness, grow more plants. Some of these things will happen this quarter and some of them will not. For me, I know that setting more than these two goals would lead to a scenario in which I haphazardly accomplish a little bit of this and a little bit of that without ever making solid progress on anything. I know because I’ve done it before. That’s the kicker about trying to be an over-achiever; if you don’t wisen up and learn to focus, you may never get anything meaningful done, and if you do, it may be at the cost of your own sanity.


What are some of your goals for 2013? How do you go about turning them into reality? And how do you stop yourself from trying to over-achieve?

Currently Reading: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors. I’m only 10 percent done, but it’s promising already.


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