If you describe yourself as driven, high-achieving and ambitious, then you’ve probably drunk the Kool-Aid. If you’re in your late thirties or above (depending on when you started drinking full out) you’re dealing with a hangover that never seems to go away.
To get rid of the Kool-Aid hangover, first stop the drinking.
Life and all its ambassadors — parents, teachers and society — make us believe that doing more, doing it faster, and doing it better than others is the key to lifelong success.
More, faster and better is the special flavor of Kool-Aid that driven folks consume endlessly even when we are on our knees and vomiting.
I should know since I was a first class drunk for upwards of four decades! I started young.
- Perform the role of the Shah’s flower girl at 7 years — Check!
- Skip sixth grade — Check.
- Lie to the US government to get a social security card and get a job at 14 — Check.
- Start working as a stockperson at Ann Taylor at 14 — Check.
- Open my first business at 16 — Check.
The only life event I didn’t rush into was becoming a parent. Thank god for that because it has turned out to be the most important work of my life! Although destiny had a lot to do with it and I’m pretty sure that left to my own devices, I would have fast-tracked that decision as well.
What I know now that I didn’t know then is that the path to peace, ease and prosperity is not paved by doing more, doing it faster and doing it better than others. That’s called hustling, not living.
Think about it. More, faster, better is a finite game.
More is a moving target and if you’re in my community, you already have at least a theoretical understanding of this truth. Here’s how the counterintuitive damage of “more” shows up in real life.
- We have the money, title, and recognition we were once certain would indicate success but now realize the goalpost has moved. So we keep striving.
- Our to-do lists never end, which is understandable, but we are missing the most important lists like a “to experience” or “to create list”. And we’re not even considering the most important list, the “Not to do”!
- We don’t take the time to decide our definition of “enough”. We think enough is a feeling, but the truth is that enough is a decision.
- We are stuck with beliefs that start with, “I would be successful, if only I had more…” complete the thought with money, hours, support — really anything that we’ve convinced ourselves more of will unlock ultimate success.
So if “more” is a deadend, what about “fast”?
Going faster is only useful if we are in some sort of athletic race and looking to podium. If we are not an elite athlete, going faster is counter–productive and frankly, stupid, on so many levels and for those of us who care, also not a good look.
Think of the Ferrari driver who guns his engine down Wilshire Blvd, making lots of noise but ultimately ends up waiting at the same red light as the rest of us! Yep, not a good look.
We’re all going to the same place and the joke’s on the person who rushes to that destination only to find out she/he missed the journey entirely.
Finally, what about striving to be “better”? Surely a professional coach must be a devotee of doing it better, right?
Yes and no.
If our definition of doing it better is based on other people’s actions, then we are creating the conditions for a life of comparison, imitation and envy.
Oooof! We’ve all been there and it’s not fun!
But if doing it better means that we aim to do things, like communication, relationships, and business, a little better than how we ourselves were doing it a year, a day or even an hour before, then “better” takes on a whole new inspiring, impactful and powerful meaning.
Here’s my simple (not easy) 4 step heuristic for actually creating a successful life — a life that will not be devoid of our personal share of challenges, tragedies and griefs — but will nevertheless feel on purpose.
- Do less but better.
- Slow down your thinking to speed up your results.
- Do life just a tiny bit better than yesterday.
- Focus on your Life Buckets relentlessly and at the exclusion of all else.
And yeah, get off the hamster wheel and work with a professional coach in order to actually do life better in less time and with more ease.