Doing Too Much? You don’t need a break. You need to break the pattern.

Are you completely satisfied with your career and life or have you begun to ask “Is this all there is?” or “Why can’t it feel easier? ” Do you ever feel you are doing too much?

From the time I could walk and talk through my early thirties, I perpetuated a pattern I call “O.R.” (Overly Responsible), working 60-80 hour weeks and trying hard to get it all done almost perfectly. I may have been a painful birth for my mother- I swear I came out with a flipchart and marker in one hand and a goal sheet with to-do list in the other. I’ve met plenty of professionals (especially women) who could be in the O.R. club, trying out for the Olympic work-life juggling team and the emotional tug of war competition.

The good news is it’s absolutely possible to shift from O.R. to A.R.; Aligned Responsibility– making choices aligned with one’s true values and authentic personal priorities. My life is extraordinarily different today- I am one of the most fulfilled, non-stressed people I know. (If you want to throw something at me for saying that, I understand. 🙂 ) My coaching clients revamp and reinvent their lifestyles beyond what they once thought possible. You can create the life you deserve.

Breaking the Pattern Breaks are nice for the doing-too-much person, but aromatherapy and a facial won’t create sustainable change. To break the pattern, you must start with increased self-awareness.

What drives us to be O.R.? In my case I was an over-achiever, which probably stemmed from an original wound in childhood of feeling “not good enough” no matter what hill I climbed to win my mother’s love or praise. (In coaching, it’s useful to be informed by the past, but we don’t focus on analyzing past wounds and digging for “Why?” We focus more what you really want moving forward and “How?”)

Too often, our culture promotes a work-driven, always doing way of living. Living on fast-forward, rarely tuning in to what’s going on inside naturally leads to disenchantment. We rationalize this is “as good as it gets” thus acquiesce. (You were not born to settle and suffer.) We attempt to feed our vague soul cravings with shopping, kitchen renovations and working harder to fuel more “success”- yet defined by whom? And at what cost to you? At a workshop for executive women, each yearned for a more meaningful, rewarding life. They also acknowledged that no one was holding a gun to their heads to continue this inertia.

Does any of this sound familiar? So, what’s smart gal (or guy) like you doing in a life like that?

A Powerful Tool How do you shift to a more fulfilling existence? First, hit the pause button. Time flies whether we’re having fun or not. Just asking yourself “Is this how I really want to live?” is a crucial first step. Success and personal fulfillment are things you create, from the inside out. One simple, yet powerful formula is Awareness, Responsibility, Choice. (What I like to call the ARC of coaching.)

1. Practice increasing awareness of “who you are,” core values, what you absolutely want, and what’s actually happening day-to-day. Make time for quiet solitude to invite your inner voice out to play- journaling, walking– anything that helps you to tune in.

2. Accept responsibility for creating your own success and well-being. Be aware of the victim trap. It’s natural to feel frustrated by mortgage payments, demanding jobs, families and to do lists. Yet, when we fall into the mode of “have to,” we give away our personal power. The truth is that each of us has the capacity to establish our own standards, boundaries, goals, beliefs and actions that will lead to a life we love rather than tolerate.

3. Then, make conscious choices more in tune with the real you. With each choice there’s a consequence, new awareness and learning, thus the positive cycle continues.

Coaching facilitates this process with provocative questions and nurturing support. This ARC also serves as a bridge, ultimately leading to feeling more alive and grateful for the adventure. Life starts to flow.

A Coaching “Homework” to Try: Play a game I call “Spy on Yourself.” For at least a week, observe daily things that are fulfilling and aligned with your real priorities and those things that feel like chores, obligations or activities in the “O.R. zone.” Also answer, “I am doing this for the sake of __________.” Notice how satisfied you are with the underlying motivations and how relevant this is to what matters most to you. Keep in mind no shame or blame. Just get curious and fascinated with spying on yourself. Keep a written log handy throughout the day. Don’t worry about how to make sweeping changes just yet. Have gobs of patience and compassion for yourself. Awareness is genuine progress. You are on your way to creating the true success you are meant to enjoy.

P.S. My actual birth was an induced labor (because the doctor had a golf date). I popped out in about twenty minutes. I used to joke, “And I’ve been going on that speed ever since.”

I’m glad that comment does not fit my chosen lifestyle today. My mother and I became friends as grownups and I feel deep love for her today. Her death served as a wake up call for me finding and following my true spirit. Life is precious. You have the power to create the life you deserve. Never settle. What new choice will you make today?

Copyright (c) 2006 Marian Baker