Monday, December 12, 2011

if life had a dimmer switch

I don't typically write about personal stuff on my public blog, but I want to share this for a number of reasons.  First, if you've been wondering what makes me tick, this might help you understand me a bit better.  Second, I've shared this advice many times with my clients, yet I never considered it relevant for me until now.  I'm hoping these thoughts might speak to some of you as well.  Who knows, this could save you thousands of dollars in therapy!  And lastly, I'm sharing this because I'm owning it (which is HUGE for me).


I experienced an epiphany yesterday.  To those who know me well, this is probably not a surprise.  To those who know only my "public" persona, you may or may not be surprised.  To me, the realization was life-changing.

My fatal flaw is that I've lived my life in a very ALL or NOTHING way.  I trace this back to my childhood.  It's a flaw of many over-achievers.  When we swing THAT HIGH, there's a complementary LOW swing to balance it out.  Some folks experience this daily, some less frequently.

I saw this trait in my mother.  She was very ALL or NOTHING.  And when she couldn't live her life at the ALL end of the spectrum, she checked out completely.  I don't want to let that happen to me.

So this begs the question, "why can't we be moderate, balanced, mediocre?"

I've been driven throughout my life to be first, best, only.  I didn't see the point in participating if you couldn't win.  I never understood how someone was happy with a B when there was an A possible.  I was the Girl Scout who wanted every single merit badge.  I was never drawn to a career where I would be just another body, just another number in the rank + file.  I've lived my life trying to be unique and special and outstanding.

So I struggle with this -- in my personal life, my athletic life, my business-owner life, in my ENTIRE life.  I've had no consistency.  I go great guns until something, some hurdle, presents itself, and then I swing to the opposite end of the spectrum and surrender.  This hurdle might be an injury or illness, it might be a change in relationship or friendship, it might be a particularly challenging business situation.  I let it get to me -- to stop me.

I'm sure some of you can empathize.  When there are 500 emails in my inbox, it's overwhelming and I don't know where to begin.  When I'm at a low with fitness (or a high with weight) what difference does it make if I have some ice cream or don't work out for one more day?  Unless I can throw myself at a project 100% (or more) why should I even participate?  So instead of living a moderate life, I operate on hyper-drive or I participate in destructive thoughts and actions.

So as I analyze this, I always thought that what I needed was a way to manage the hurdles -- to create a support system to help me through the challenging times.  But now, I'm starting to believe what I really need is the ability to manage my energy so that I can MODERATE myself.  I don't need to swing to both ends of the spectrum -- it's tiring and counter-productive.

Because as we age, as we continue to live life, the hurdles seem to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration.  And the resultant lows are lower.

For someone who was raised to over-achieve, to "shoot for the stars," this is a HUGE paradigm shift.  I've always wondered how some people can be so content in life with mediocrity - in job, family, sport, education.  But upon further examination, I realize that what they have is not mediocrity, but consistency and balance.  I'm starting to think that's not such a bad thing.  It's freeing.  I can't express the sense of relief I feel giving myself permission to JUST BE ME.

The good news is that I think I've been turning in this direction for the past few years.  I've experienced some significant change in my life and have been heading in this direction without quite knowing the destination.  And now, it's all become quite clear.

Life isn't simply BLACK or WHITE.  GRAY is okay.

It's not ALL or NOthing.  SOMEthing is just fine, too.

Maybe I'll print that eloquent quote on magnets and share it with my friends, clients, and teammates who suffer from the same over-achieving, self-destructive tendencies.

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