Do you have a dream or vision for what you want to create in the world? Are you energized to make an impact but frustrated that you’re not accomplishing more? If this is you – take a breath, know you’re not alone, and let’s dig into this.
With a new year comes new goals, resolutions, and ambitions. This divine impulse to achieve is a beautiful thing. But if we’re not careful – this ambition will strip us of our joy and dismantle relationships. For all the good that comes with being a high achiever, there’s a flipside that rarely gets addressed: high achievers tend to work from a place of self-created failure. Said another way – they always feel like they need to do more. As a result, they struggle to settle into spaces, listen deeply, and constantly rush off from one thing to the next.
When our reality doesn’t match our expectations – the difference becomes our disappointment. If we’re not careful, we can get stuck in disappointment and blaspheme ourselves or the world around us for something that was utterly unrealistic from the onset.
So how do we balance our desire to live a happy, healthy life and our burning impulse to accomplish and create?
It can feel like your circumstances are constantly at odds with your dreams. Despite you putting two hours of hard work into your media strategy, studying for a test, (fill in the blank), you still feel unsatisfied and frustrated you didn’t accomplish more. And yeah, you’re annoyed with your mom calling for a third time but more than anything, you’re pissed at yourself for hitting the snooze button twice more than you should have this morning. But none of it matters now – it’s date night, and you know you can’t miss two weeks in a row. So you throw your clothes on, forget to brush your teeth, and scamper out the door. After the night ends – you’re laying in bed and realize you spent the entire night ranting about work and barely even asked your partner about their day. Now you feel like a terrible partner as a familiar sense of failure sends you off to sleep.
If this is familiar, pause with me for a second, and let’s re-calibrate. This failure cycle has decimated my mental health at times. I desperately don’t want to see you fall into the same pattern. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the patterns that throw me into this cycle. As always – I encourage you to take what lands with you and leave what doesn’t.
Here are 7 things you might be doing to keep you stuck in a self-created failure cycle:
- 1. You have a limited definition of productivity
We know that relationships are the heartbeat of a meaningful life, and nutrition, movement, and mindfulness all contribute mightily. Yet, we need help to see these priorities through the lens of productivity. When was the last time you had a phone call with an old friend and chalked it up as a productive hour? Chances are you, like me, see this as tangential time to the real productive meat of your day. What if we expanded our definition of productivity to include all that deeply matters to our holistic health?
- 2. You are overly time optimistic
While my optimism serves me in many areas – time management is certainly not one of them. Consistently, I under anticipate how long something should take. From this unrealistic clock, goals get created, resolutions formed, and deadline’s defined. And when I don’t hit these marks, feelings of failure pour in. We saw this show up consistently in our journey to finish Beyond the Beat (our next documentary film). Our strong desire to get to the finish line led us into a pattern of unrealistic deadlines that we struggled to meet. When these deadlines passed, I noticed our frustration amongst the team rose significantly. The lesson here is this: when we get more realistic with how much time we need, save a lot of time and frustration in the long run.
- 3. You’re letting your feelings control your life
The worst time of the day for me is the first 10 minutes. I struggle with the initial push out of bed. Some days, I don’t feel like getting up and honoring the plan I set for myself the night before. When I stay in bed – I’m setting myself up to be slightly frustrated and behind all day. The mornings when I do pop out of bed, it’s much easier for me to stay in an uplifted head space. The small wins start building momentum, and good things happen. Truth is – feelings are often deceptive and can work against our dreams and aspirations. Learning not to be controlled by these feelings and honoring the schedule we set for ourselves creates a framework for success.
- 4. You have no practice of awareness or spiritual grounding
In this chaotic world, we’re bound to get thrown out of alignment. Things come up, grief strikes, people do people things, and often – none of it makes sense. The only way I’ve learned to stay aligned with what matters and sift through the clutter is to keep a consistent practice. My daily movement practice allows me to reset and align with who I want to be. It might be a morning walk, afternoon meditation, or evening prayer. Find what works for you and press into this practice. It will become your life force when the storms do inevitably come.
- 5. You’re speaking to yourself in ways that you would never talk to your best friend
How you speak to yourself forms how you see yourself. And how you see yourself will shape how you show in the world. When I hit the snooze button an extra time, you better believe I’m pissed off at myself. When I don’t hit a deadline at work, there’s no telling what I might say in my head. Still, it’s vital we don’t allow this self-deprecating talk to become our principal narrative. How do you talk to your closest friends? T is a helpful guide for the honest yet understanding tone we can strike within our own inner dialogue.
- 6. You’re not celebrating the smaller wins
While the world can celebrate big, flashy accomplishments – there’s a more subtle celebrating that only you can do. And quite honestly – it’s far more impactful if embraced regularly. This celebration asks you to acknowledge the small victories and progress that happen every day. It celebrated consistency, routines, and honoring your word to yourself. Celebrating the smaller wins is what develops you towards those larger goals. For a long time, I thought celebrating myself was a pompous, unnecessary, and even prideful act. But the truth is – celebration is a catalyst for our dreams. It gives us the critical energy and inspiration needed to keep going.
- 7. You’re not giving yourself the grace and space you deserve
The hard reality of life is we can’t predict it. We don’t know what life-changing conversation may happen in the Trader Joe’s line, when the next world event will throw us all into another quarantine, or why your mom needs help moving her three ton dresser again. One of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves is giving ourselves the space for things to change and adapt. As we say in Blue Marble Sky, “The danger of a dream is it’s never going to look the way you thought it would.” Learning to embrace this mystery keeps life exciting and engaging. Some days you won’t have it in the tank. You can make it mean, “I’m lazy and a piece of sh*t,” or “maybe I need to take a few days away to reset my energy.” Be kind to yourself, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.
I’ve seen how people who struggle with these seven things bring this failure cycle wherever they go. This cycle stresses our relationships unnecessarily, damages our work environment, and distances us from our sense of self.
Let me know in the comments what landed with you! Which of these do you struggle most with? Whether you’re in school or deep into your career – I hope this helped you bring awareness to what might be holding you back from a fuller, more prosperous life. Let’s keep going and growing! Life’s too short to miss the good stuff.