There was a time when I was deeply mired in the world of producing work. I have always taken pride in being a skilled and thorough tactician. During this time, I had a narrow focus where all that mattered to me was meeting expectations and trying to please everyone who asked of my time. Often those expectations were made worse by me over-committing to unrealistic timelines and over-promising what I could deliver. I was/still am a people pleaser. It has taken me failing a few too many times for me to look at myself objectively, and learn the power of saying “no.” Pair that unhealthy need to please with my misinformed mantra of “perception is everything” and it got me to the point of burn-out. While there is some truth in that statement, it’s ignorant to the human condition.
I used to wear my gratuitous hard work as a badge of pride. I fooled myself into believing that my worth would ultimately be determined by my ability to stay and appear busy. Not only did this notion drive me to be overly busy, overly caffeinated and overly sensitive, it was also a lie. A lie that I would tell myself in order to feel like I had value as an employee; a lie perpetuated by well-meaning (but misguided) encouragement from managers and peers.
You may ask: What changed for you? Well, without putting too fine of a point on it, it was seeing too many of my friends work themselves into a stupor trying to meet some fictitious expectation of “busy.” This inauthentic pursuit of becoming “Superman” (trying to do everything for everyone) often led to low quality work, missed deadlines, and a bevy of personal problems with family and significant others. Seeing things fall apart for those around me, some of whom I looked on as role models, really struck me. In order for me not to lose my soul, I had to be able to prioritize what was important and what added real value. There is nothing novel about this concept, but was something that has taken me a over a decade to figure out.
I’m done doing work just to feel like I’m adding value or to give the perception of productivity. The realization that my true value is in the quality of my work, the content of my words, and breadth of my experience was significant. My willingness to accept that was life changing. 2017 will be my year for authenticity in my interactions and in my actions. I aim to never say something unless I mean really mean it, never do something if it doesn’t mean something, and I won’t stress about it if it doesn’t add value. To anyone reading this, hold me accountable.