You are passionate about your work and you seek ways to positively impact the world. However, you feel like you are running a race that you can never win. As you plan for the next year, you are determined to do more and achieve more even though you are already busy and exhausted. You are tired but constantly feel like you are not getting enough.
You deserve to reset your mental health. By undoing the self-destructive assumptions that keep you on the perpetual hamster wheel, you can break out of this all-too-familiar pattern that has plagued so many goal-setters and high achievers.
Learn about health values
Consider the possibility that some of your values are detrimental to your well-being.
In their classic book, Self-Esteem, mental health professionals Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning claim that we shape values early in life through basic human needs such as the need for parental love and approval and the acceptance and admiration of peers. However, some of these childhood values may be unhealthy in adult life.
McKay and Fanning provide criteria for measuring whether your values are healthy.
- Flexibility – Health values are not rigid. Health values allow for occasional failure. Look for limiting beliefs that include words like “always, never, completely.” McKay and Fanning claim that everyone will fail to live up to the ideal a certain percentage of the time.
- Leads to Positive Results – Healthy values promote a lifestyle that results in well-being and happiness. You feel that your values-driven behaviors are valid.
- Life Enhancement vs. Life Restriction Health values enable you to meet your human needs. It does not make you feel tired or weak. Life improvement values will allow you to stay balanced.
Consider reframing your values to support your long-term mental health.
Examine Limited Beliefs
Unchecked beliefs, such as those caused by fear, may limit your long-term well-being and effectiveness.
In the run-up to the holiday, Jana struggles to shake off feelings of hopelessness and despair. She needs to take time off from her high-pressure position at a well-known consulting firm. However, Jana has a hard time putting her to-do list aside. She is afraid of letting herself and others down if she ends the year without removing all the items in it.
The truth is, no matter how hard she works, Jana can’t check every item on the list, because she’s constantly adding to it.
To stop this self-defeating behavior, Jana must understand why. She calls in her leadership coach for help.
Jana’s coach urges core beliefs that always push her to do more. Together, they discover that Jana believes she must be constantly kept busy to live up to her potential. She is afraid of wasting time. Her real fear is failure.
Jana’s coach encourages her to overcome her fear by making new choices. For example, she might try to refrain from adding additional tasks to her to-do list for a week or maybe until the end of the year. Or she might check her list and delete anything that isn’t important to her most important long-term goals. It may even intentionally leave a task on its list unexecutable.
When you choose to face your fears and try something different, you will feel uncomfortable. Do it anyway. Sit down while you feel uncomfortable and notice what happens. Did your new behavior lead to the failure you fear?
Most likely, you will learn that your fears are unfounded and that you can reduce or eliminate your fear-based behaviors in time.
Review your definition of productivity
In an online chat, Keri, an executive at an HR consulting firm, claimed that she doesn’t make good use of her free time. She says, “I am now planning how I can make the most of my winter vacation.”
As she routinely reorganizes her closets during her break because it makes her feel at peace, she thinks she can do a better job. You pledge to set goals for what you will accomplish during the holidays.
When a co-worker points out that resting during a break can be a productive activity, Keri laughs and says she knows it can be “disturbingly goal-oriented.” Can you find the link?
What drives excessively achievement-oriented beliefs and behaviors? This is probably how you define productivity. One definition of productivity is “achieving results.” However, results cannot always be measured immediately.
Expand your perception of productivity to include activities that yield something useful, constructive, or valuable in the long run. Relaxation contributes to your long-term health. Life doesn’t have to be a race after all.
Think about why relaxation is a waste of time. Perhaps your inner voice is telling you that productivity requires constant attention to goals.
Everyone has many inner voices. Which ones do you listen without checking? Perhaps these voices came from a parent, teacher, or other important people in your early life.
What voices serving your well-being tell you? Allow your inner voice to speak. And listen to the people you identify who serve you better everywhere.
Everyone operates from inner values and beliefs. However, many are either unaware or vaguely unaware of what is driving their behavior.
If you’re feeling drained, overwhelmed, hopeless or overwhelmed, it’s time to examine any inner voices, values, or beliefs that may be limiting your well-being and the positive impact you wish to have for your leadership and the world.