My friend and I were reflecting on our careers over lunch recently, remembering how at the start of working life I had boldly stated that “I wouldn’t want to be any higher than a manager”, whilst she longed to earn a salary of £45,000 and “couldn’t possibly need any more than that”. We may have been naive then, but those were our goals. Yet no sooner had we hit them and we were already looking for the next step up the ladder! Now both in senior roles in the industry, we can’t recall a conscious effort to get where we ended up and wonder at what cost our success had come?
A self-confessed shopaholic, exerciseaholic and workaholic - it would appear that I have an addictive nature and am never satisfied when there is more to be gained. Is it ingrained within me to always push boundaries? Is such a hunger to achieve healthy? Should we and can we learn to be satisfied with what we have?
Its been refreshing to take my foot off the gas in my career for the first time in over ten years, to concentrate on more rewarding elements like family, sport and of course this blog! It made me wonder if perhaps I would be happier taking a middle management role so I wouldn't become absorbed by working life once again. To take a job in which I could just cruise and take in the world around me now without added stress.
The problem with this ideal is me. I now know myself well enough to predict that after a month or so of cruising it is my nature to start pushing for more, begging to be stretched outside of my comfort zone. I simply cant help myself!!
I recall studying for one of my earlier trust exams which was too advanced for the position I was at and nearly causing myself a nervous breakdown to grasp concepts that were far beyond me, simply because failure was not an option. A drive to succeed is no doubt an admirable quality, but what if you cant recognise your limitations and know when to stop?
This drive translates well into my sport as I adopt an athlete's attitude to mentality push myself hard to achieve goals. But there have been times when it has also been to my detriment. I am constantly guilty of overtraining and have been known to push myself physically despite illness. Other times I have strained to reach goals so far out of my reach that it has made me and those around me miserable. Winning and a sense of achievement is for me the ultimate high, but there needs to be a healthy balance and you need to recognise your breaking point.
As my son gets older you start to think about the qualities you as a parent want to install in him. As adults we understand that losing is okay and that you should graciously accept defeat, but somehow I cant seem to apply these teachings to myself! The only person I compete against is myself, but I am my own worst critic and never let myself catch a break.
A good tool for self reflection is to think how you would like to be remembered when you're gone. After some thought, the best I could come up is that "I tried my hardest to be the best version of me I could be", which in itself is a completely immeasurable goal and probably goes some way to explain my problem! There are lots of professionals out there to help you reach your goals; personal trainers, coaches, tutors, but who helps you learn how to fail?
The key to happiness is discovering what you already have. Stop comparing yourself to others. Have goals, but don't be afraid to fail and pick yourself back up. Succeed and grow as a person, but take time to recognise the great times in your life or success will amount to nothing more than a collection of certificates, medals and trophies.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop my innate craving for more, more, more but perhaps at least I can try to learn how to fail with style.