The problem with being a continuous-improvement-junky is achievement. I know, that seems counter-intuitive. We want to achieve, right? We want to get better. I do. Every day I do.
|Six miles? No problem!|
But once I’ve achieved something it becomes a standard. So today, as I huffed and puffed through 4 miles, reminding myself that running is a habit and I’ve been slack in the habit for months, I kept thinking, “I run 6 miles. Minimum.”
Like when I swim. I swim 3000 yards. Period. No less.
How does this happen? High jumpers don’t take a month off in December, gorge themselves on Christmas cookies and eggnog and come back to the bar at 6 feet high. So why should I?
Here are three ways we self-defeat with achievement.
The best thing about expectations is that they push us to perform. I expect myself to do better. I expect myself to get up every morning. I expect sacrifice, commitment, courage. Expectations are the things we say to ourselves that make quitting “not an option.”
The problem with expectations is that they can get unrealistic pretty quickly. Expectations are built on what we know ourselves to be capable of. They ignore things like injury, illness, and disruption.
I once ran 6 miles every time I went out. Four was an easy jaunt. Now, as I said, four miles is ridiculously hard. I mean hard. Which brings me to the second way achievement can be defeating:
Achieving things is HARD.
If it were easy to run a half marathon, everyone would do it. If it were easy to get a PhD, go back to law school, move to a foreign country, run your own business, or swim the English Channel everyone would do it. But they don’t.
Those that do show a tremendous amount of courage, focus, and discipline. So why do we think, once we’ve done something that’s HARD, that we should be able to do it again? And more easily this time?
I don’t want to be afraid of hard work. I don’t want to shy away from it or take the easy way out.
That doesn’t mean I want to make things hard on myself. It means I want to earn the achievement and I’m not afraid of the work I have to put in to do it.
Said the girl huffing up the hills on mile three begging for this run to be over.
Other people don’t do this
There are millions of really talented, motivated people out there. And for every awesome contributor, citizen, and role model there are five (or more) bumps-on-a-log. People who are so caught up in the daily struggle of basic survival that they cannot see anything beyond their own self-created melodrama.
Don’t mistake this as a lack of empathy. For those people born into difficult circumstances, beset by illness or hardship, abused or degraded beyond their human limits, I have unlimited compassion. I think we all do. It’s why the rags-to-riches stories really touch us. Underdogs. Overcoming circumstance. Fighters.
Those aren’t the ones I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the ones who could do more and don’t. They just don’t. Not judging. Just saying. They could. But they don’t.
So as achievers we think, “well, I’m not that person.” Here’s what that self-defeating mantra sounds like, “at least you’re doing something.” That mantra says you don’t have to be at your best, you just have to be better than someone else.
Okay, Kasie, so what do we do about this? Glad you asked! Next week I’ll post the not-so-boo-hooey part: How to Overcome Self-Defeating Achievement.
Until then, tell me if you’ve got some nasty inner monologue that keeps you from getting what you want. Leave a comment, let me know you were here!