I know you. You throw yourself into everything you do, all the time.
There is no halfway for you – it’s all the way, and once you’re there, maybe you do just a little bit more.
There is no “all-or-nothing”, there’s just full tilt, up-past-your-eyeballs “all-in”.
You, my friend, are a machine.
You’re the first one there and the last one to leave.
You work hard and give 110% to everything you do.
You certainly don’t believe in shortcuts.
(Is this starting to resonate yet?)
There are people around you who love that you work so hard and so much, especially those who do a whole lot less because you’re doing it all.
Those folks, in fact, rather adore you.
You work, and work, and work, and accomplish, and accomplish, and accomplish, and – tell the truth – you sort of look down on people who aren’t as fully committed as you are. And you pretty much define yourself by how much time you put in.
It’s resonating now, huh?
And I’m not going to tell you to stop working so hard, or so much. I’m not going to tell you to change one thing about yourself.
I’m just going to raise one little idea – something I’ve learned from the many people I’ve coached over the years who’ve come to the point where a light bulb goes off over their heads.
I’ve even had this same light bulb go off over my own noggin.
It’s this: Today, you can work somewhere for ten, fifteen, twenty years and work hard, give it your all, miss your kids’ birthdays, your spouse’s birthdays, your friends’ funerals, your anniversaries, the soccer game, the Broadway show, that trip to Europe – all of it – and still lose your job in a reorganization.
It’s a hollow feeling to realize that you’ve put so much on hold in service of your work, and it ultimately matters not a whit when the big change comes down. Like when the company is acquired. Or donations fall off. Or there’s new leadership. Hell, there are a hundred crazy reasons why things change and almost none of them can be changed by you working harder.
It’s entirely possible to work so intently that you raise your head one day and realize you forgot to see the Great Wall of China. Or visit the dentist. Or get married.
People over-focus on work for a lot of reasons. Might be because you work in a place where folks define themselves by their office hours and you want to fit in. Could be because you’re terrified of being seen as wrong, and standing out in a bad way. Maybe you have a deep, internal conviction that you are deeply flawed and it’s only a matter of time before everyone figures that out. Maybe your daddy always told you that winners never quit and quitters never win.
And what’s the common denominator?
It’s all about other people’s reaction to you. It’s all about external validation.
So many folks scurry and perform for others so they can get the gold star, the pat on the back, the approval. They strive for hearing “well done”, “that’s a good girl”, “that’s my boy” because that’s the kind of external affirmation they’ve come to rely upon.
Which sometimes, despite our Herculean effort, remains tantalizingly out of reach.
(And if they ever do get it, they sort of don’t believe it, anyway.)
Friends, it’s the work of a lifetime to shift from a place of seeking external validation to being driven by internal acceptance.
You see, the most happy and well-adjusted people – whether they are adult executives, teenaged soccer players, young at-home parents or retirees – have this in common: They do what they do because it feels good and satisfies their values.
These people are not whipsawed by the vagaries of the crowd. If they put in a lot of hours, it’s not because they hope to fit in, or to be accepted, or to create a barrage of flak so no one can see the impostor lurking within.
No, if they work hard, they work hard because their integrity calls them to it.
And if they find a shortcut that’s in line with their values, they take it.
And if they want to leave on Friday at 3pm, they do.
And they take their vacation days.
And their sick days.
They live in balance with themselves and their choices. So in the event they get laid off, it doesn’t crush their sense of self and leave them paralyzed with anguish and worry. The most successful know who they are, they know what they bring, and they are comfortable in their own skin.
Rather than living for the approval of others, they affirm themselves.
So, I’m not going to tell you to change how you are. I’m just going to raise the possibility with you that there may be a better way to do what you do.
It boils down to this: Do what you can. Love what you do. And make space for the idea that maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to do it all.