“Amy has pneumonia.” What!? My invincible sister-in-law, Amy, had pneumonia? I couldn’t believe it! I’d just seen her two days before and she seemed just fine. What happened was she’d finally tipped the scales from chronically doing too much to REALLY doing too much with no break.
Amy is the owner of a very successful preschool daycare program, and a dedicated wife and mother who almost always puts everyone’s needs before her own. Recently she’d not only been running her daycare, which requires anywhere from 60-80 hours of her time per week, and taking care of her home, family, and personal business, but within the last few months she’d developed plans to double the size of her daycare, gotten a loan, and searched out and worked with an architect and a contractor to renovate the space that would make expansion possible. That expansion also required that she and her husband move to a new home. She found a home, purchased it, and moved in. Because Amy has the organizer gene in her family, she also coordinated the move, did much of the moving of smaller items into the home, and did most of the unpacking and setting up the new house. Is it any wonder that Amy crashed?
Amy is a woman with high drive. There is no doubt about it. When I’d asked her how she’d been able to get so much accomplished in such a short period of time during our visit the weekend before she was diagnosed with pneumonia, she said, “I just keep going.” Her automatic response when there is a lot on her plate is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, making the next decision, taking the next action. And, she gets a lot done. But at what price?
When I spoke with her while she was recovering from pneumonia, and remarked that she’d seemed fine when I saw her, her response was, “I just kept feeling like something was off. And, I started feeling worse and worse, but I had no idea I was so sick.” Even then, she kept going. It wasn’t until her daughter said, “Mom, we’re going to the urgent care center,” that Amy had a clue that something was really wrong. Her drive to get things done, to do the responsible thing, had blocked her awareness that her body was sick and needed attention.
High drive is the trait associated with people who are successful in business and life, and is revered in our culture. But, as Amy’s story relays, it’s demands can block healthy awareness of your physical limits. It took something as serious as pneumonia to make Amy aware that she had to stop and realize what her drive was costing her.
If you recognize yourself in Amy’s story, which unfortunately I do, it’s time to pause and take stock of what your drive is costing you. Is it affecting your health, your mood, your relationships? Perhaps it’s time to take back control from the tyrant of high drive so you can not only avoid a nose dive into illness, but make space for more peaceful moments and pleasure in your life.
One reason we get stuck and fail to make positive progress toward our goals is because it’s so easy to get off track and be totally unconscious of the fact that we jumped the rails. For example, I recently was working effectively and efficiently in my office when I encountered a computer problem. Because I hate to have anything not working properly, I began trying to solve the problem. You know how that goes. It’s like going down a rabbit hole–many twists and turns, much time wasted, and still no resolution.
At some point along the way it hit me that I was wasting valuable time and not making progress on tasks I wanted to get done that day. When I weighed my options I realized solving that problem at that moment was a choice, not an imperative. With that hit of awareness I was able to change course and get back to work. Had I remained unconscious about the time I was wasting, as many people do, especially people with ADD/ADHD, I could have lost the opportunity to get an enormous amount of important work done.
If you are prone to such side trips, getting caught up in things that are not top priority, becoming aware of when you are off track and aware of the ways you can be lured off track is imperative if you want to be productive. I got back on track because I have a good time sense and a strong drive to accomplish my goals. My sense that time was slipping away as I worked to fix the computer problem got my attention and made it possible for me to pause long enough to become aware of the choice I had regarding the focus of my efforts.
Another way to create the opportunity for awareness is to set an alarm on your phone to go off every 20 to 30 minutes. When the alarm sounds, consider it a cue to pause and notice whether or not you are doing priority work. If you’re off track you can then shift back to work that will make it possible for you to reach your goals.
A lack of awareness that you are drifting away from priority work leads to being stalled in your efforts to move forward and eventually to being stuck. You choose. Stalled and stuck or aware and moving toward your goals!
A great way to develop awareness of priorities, of what derails your efforts to be productive, and ways to keep yourself on track and moving forward is to work in partnership with a coach. For a limited time I am offering the opportunity to experience the benefits of coaching with micro-coaching at a very reduced rate, three 30 minute sessions for $75. If you want to get unstuck and move toward completion of a task or make progress to achieve a goal, email me at debbie@RockScissorsPaperInstitute.com to let me know of your interest in coaching.
I rewarded myself for weeks of hard work clearing out my mother’s house and getting it ready to sell with some time to do just what I wanted to do. My husband warned, “You’ll just work the whole time.” He knows me so well! I’m one of those people who gets a rush by getting things done. And, I enjoy my work and value keeping my life organized and staying on top of the many things I must do to maintain my home, maintain and grow my business, stay healthy, maintain good relationships, be productive, and help my mother. So, yes, I work a lot!
What did I do with my “free” time? Instead of plopping down in front of Dancing With the Stars or a good book, I set up a newly acquired writing desk that I had brought home when I cleared Mom’s house. It is a beautiful treasure that once belonged to Mart, my father’s mother. What began as an idea to move some supplies for writing notes to friends and family resulted in my clearing out and reorganizing two drawers in my office desk plus one supply drawer of pens and pencils. All it took was getting started on one drawer and my project blossomed. Why? Because all the items related to writing notes were in three locations. Once I got into each location to pull out items to put in Mart’s desk I realized that the whole drawer needed an overhaul.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s the kind of thing that happens when you begin rearranging things in your space. Now, I could have pulled out what I wanted to put in Mart’s desk and left a jumble behind in all three places. Instead I seized the opportunity and the energy I felt to clear out and create a new order. All three drawers are now uncluttered and so much more functional. It will now be a breeze to locate items that I need within seconds. And, in the process I got rid of things that no longer serve my current needs. I’m not fighting with ugly greeting cards or struggling with an overwhelming quantity of seasonal cards I would have never used.
I also could have started that project and quit halfway through, because it did require making a lot of decisions. What kept me going? The knowledge that I was making space for new, good things to come to me. The belief that lightening my physical load would give me relief in my daily functioning. And, I knew I could create spaces that felt better than they did when I started. I kept telling myself, “Out with the dead stuff!”
Now my little writing desk is ready for use. I’ve already retrieved some rubber bands from it, and was glad to have had that supply close at hand. The order that greets me when I open my desk drawer gives me a sense of well-being. You too can achieve these benefits! Start with believing it is possible, and then make it happen–even if you have to get help to make it so. Many people have brains that cannot do what I did last night. It’s not a character flaw. It’s just a fact. Get help and get clear! You too can achieve a sense of well-being by clearing out and creating a new order.
Oh, and did I work all evening long? Well, not the whole evening. I did take a break to eat and watch Dancing With the Stars before I sorted my pens and pencils and checked them out to see what worked and what didn’t. . . .