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I'm a life coach, so this might sound obvious - but I love all things personal development.
At any given time, I've got 25 books stacked up waiting to be read about productivity, mindset and meditation. I have a morning routine (some days, not all!) that brings me into alignment. I try to do yoga several times a week, journal, and limit my screen time. I could browse Pinterest for hours, just reading about life hacks and how to make myself a better, happier, more efficient person.
I love personal development because it challenges me to reject complacency. It shakes me up and forces me to look critically at the way I'm doing things - am I living my fullest version of life? Or am I just used to doing things this way? Are there small tweaks I could make to live more mindfully and improve my quality of life?
Just like every hobby, though, it's possible to take personal development too far.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the number of books and courses I've purchased but haven't finished. It's easy to feel guilty if my morning routine doesn't happen, or if I skip yoga twice in one week. There are days when even keeping up my bullet journal (a tool that seriously helps my anxiety and makes my day to day more manageable) feels like a chore.
I'm here to say that if you relate to this, you're not alone. There's a fine line between personal development and self improvement burnout.
If you've ever felt guilty or overwhelmed at the idea of starting new routines, fostering new habits or changing career paths, that's totally normal. If you buy self help books and don't read them, nobody cares. If you only meditate for two minutes before turning on your favorite podcast, I don't give a fuck. If something isn't working for you right now, it shouldn't cause you shame - just let it go. Don't forget that your life is yours to LIVE.
While personal development can provide valuable resources to get you through some challenging times, I hope you never feel guilt about being where you are.
Even if you don't know where you're headed, what your purpose is, or who your people are - you're still perfect. Today. Right where you are.
Allow the tools of this industry to support you in living a life you love, not creating an over regulated and shame generating prison, because that will only make you miserable.
My challenge to you today might seem unconventional from a coach who focuses on clarity and planning - but I want you to use today as a chance to quit. Quit a book, a course, a routine or an obligation that makes you feel shitty, even if you think it's for your "higher good." Accept the lack of clarity or lack of drive or sense of confusion and refuse to judge yourself for it. And rest assured, when you're ready to pick up some tools again, I'll be here to help you out.
Are you suffering from personal development burnout? Let me know in the comments what your experience has been like, and how you're quitting the things that don't serve you.
For many years I, like millions of other young women around the world, was my own harshest critic. I was working long hours in the nonprofit field, juggling high levels of responsibility and workload with a scarcity of time and very little understanding of how to manage my own stress levels. I was determined to set myself apart by being impressive, so I'd take on as much work as was available. I also wanted all that work to be done perfectly.
Rather than admit to myself or others that I had too much on my plate, I'd dig in with a renewed determination to once again set myself apart. I'd work extra hours and often spent my precious off time ruminating about unfinished work or conversations. I would work myself up into a panic over the slightest imagined faux pas, in both my personal AND professional life. I thought everything I did was under scrutiny, and I was constantly afraid I'd be "found out" as someone incapable or unqualified for my position.
Even writing this now makes me uncomfortable. I can recall the tightness that was always present in my chest, the jittery way my mind was operating on too much caffeine, and the lack of fullness in my life at the time. Yes, I was fulfilled, challenged and happy with my work - but the desire for excellence and perfection robbed the rest of my life of any possibility of meaning.
Eventually, after years of trial and error and seeking to stand apart by working crazier and crazier workloads, I realized something significant. I was trying to set myself apart so that others would see my value, and in turn help me to excel. But rather than trying to get others to see my value, I realized that it was my responsibility (and mine alone) to advocate for myself, in work and in life - and that if I was only focused on the "mistakes" I was convinced I was making, I could never speak confidently about myself and my own value.
This was a true lightbulb moment: I shifted from being my biggest critic to my biggest advocate, and never looked back.
That's why I'm such a big fan of #theimperfectboss campaign. I spent too much time scrolling through the Instagram hashtag yesterday, laughing and commiserating with female entrepreneurs around the world who also do not always have things done perfectly. I know that the desire for perfection is something that I, and my clients, will likely continue to be aware of throughout our lives. Having a desire for perfection isn't a bad thing by itself - it's how we choose to respond to that desire that can be powerful or disheartening. Since I've released my constant desire for perfection and the accompanying self - scrutiny, my life looks completely different.
Today, I'm sharing my 3 favorite tips to ditch the desire for perfection, whenever it comes up!
- Pause. Anytime you feel a desire to re-do a project, to tweak or to obsess over the layout of a blog post, take a moment to pause. Stop what you're doing and close your eyes, consciously connecting to your body and grounding yourself. Be quiet for several minutes, and then ask yourself where the perfectionism is coming from. Are you avoiding something else by obsessing over this? Acknowledge the core desire, and choose how you'll handle it from a more empowered place.
- Reflect. Think back on the other projects you've completed in the past. Are there things about those projects you're still dying to perfect? Probably - because it's rare that a blog post, workshop, project or even a relationship feel complete. There's always something more we can build out, a new perspective we can introduce. Before you start editing that backlog of projects though, consider their reception. Did your boss/community/loved one enjoy your offering? Did you get comments on your blog posts? Most likely, even in their less than perfect state your previous work had a positive reception. That's because your audience, whoever that is, isn't even aware of the tweaks you're looking to make.
- Prioritize. Still feel like something's not quite clicking when it comes to what you're working on? Make a list of all the things you want to change to make it "perfect." Ask a friend or coworker to review your draft, and then have them go over the list with a highlighter, highlighting only things that they noticed when looking at your draft. If you have a grammatical error, fix it, because it directly impacts the reader/viewer's experience. The fact that you want to break paragraph three into two paragraphs? If your reviewer didn't notice, then it's likely not a big enough deal to stress over.
I hope these practical tools help you to break out of your perfectionist rut, next time you get stuck! Remember, you can use these tools in any area of your life, so don't hesitate to customize them so they work for you. Let me know in the comments which exercise is the most helpful for you, and take pride in being #theimperfectboss. Being imperfect just means that you're too busy getting shi* done to allow your mind and your fear to get in your way. Go out there and advocate for yourself, instead!
The biggest question looming over 20 somethings these days (and always) seems to be frustratingly unanswerable: what should I do with my life? We look in books, podcasts, to our mentors, our parents, workshops...all in the hopes that what we "should" be doing will jump out at us and make itself known.
I argue that what you "should" do isn't the question. The more important inquiry to understand is: how do I make my major life decisions?
Do you make choices based on what you think you "should" do, or what you're excited about doing? Are your choices coming from a place of instilled responsibility, or alignment with your ultimate vision for your life?
In coaching, we often talk about the dreaded "shoulds," the social conventions we all grew up accepting and believing as truth. The "shoulds" vary across time and cultures, but they generally serve to teach us how to be contributing members of our society. We should go to school, get a job, have a family. We should save up for emergencies, we should be rational, we should focus more on what makes us money than what brings us joy. We should exercise, we should eat well, we should help one another. The "shoulds" can be incredibly valuable, especially when we're unsure about where to go next. These conventions show us a path, telling us exactly where to place our foot next. Right foot, responsibility. Left foot, hard work.
The problem with the "shoulds" is that far too often we forget that they're nothing more than a framework. They're the canvas on which we create our lives, and our personal choices and off path wanderings are the paint. Nothing original has ever been created by following a formula; this also means that nothing original has ever been created in a cocoon of total safety and comfort. Simply put, only following the "shoulds" makes you and your life incredibly boring.
You don't need to reject every "should" tomorrow, but I encourage you to ask yourself which "shoulds" you're currently embracing. Are they serving you in living your original, once in a lifetime, unforgettable iteration of your life? Or are you acting as you "should" and walking unconsciously through your days? If that's the case, I dare you to shed a "should" or two. When you reject constant comfort and embrace a bit of daring, magical things start to happen.