I’ve been an achiever my entire life. If you’re reading this, then you can likely relate to my personal experience of always putting in extra hours at work, revising every project to perfection and invariably choosing to go the extra mile. I love being an achiever; I credit both my natural hardcore work ethic and the thrill I get from completing a project to the success I’m seeing in my daily life and business now.
However, there’s an important conundrum that is lurking within myself (and most other achievers I meet!) and I feel like we need to address the elephant in the room. Plain and simple, when we self-identify as “Achievers,” it’s easy to equate our productivity and accomplishments with who we are.
This can be a beautiful thing when we’re feeling good and producing things we’re excited about. The problem is when the unexpected occurs. We all know that challenges like illness, job loss or family emergencies come when we least expect them. The frustrating truth is that sometimes our ability to crush our goals and projects just isn’t under our control. What happens to our sense of identity and self-worth when life interferes and forces us to take a step back from the productivity we’ve used to define ourselves? We’re thrown into a tailspin, without knowing where to turn for balance and confidence.
How can we prepare ourselves for life’s inevitable curveballs? We can proactively define ourselves and our self-worth as separate from our productivity. I’m sharing my favorite three methods on how to do that below.
We can decide to break our busy addiction.
It seems like the to-do lists are endless and our hours in the day are always short. Sometimes it’s pleasant to lose ourselves in a day of hard work, especially if we enjoy our job. When the day ahead looks lighter than usual, we tend to want to fill it – perhaps to mimic the busy feeling of those ultra-productive and rewarding days.
However, if you’re just keeping busy for the sake of being busy, then there’s usually a reason. Ask yourself what it is that you’re craving. Are you staying busy to avoid something else? Are you staying busy because you want to appear in demand to others? Breaking our addiction to staying busy for busy’s sake will allow us to show up more powerfully when it’s truly needed and to better enjoy the slow-paced days. It’s the first step in better understanding ourselves beyond our work-horse mentality.
Breaking our addiction to staying busy for busy’s sake will allow us to show up more powerfully when it’s truly needed and to better enjoy the slow-paced days.
We can start to value our input, rather than our output.
Your co-workers and boss no doubt appreciate the volume of work you’re producing (and envy your inbox zero goals!). However, you are valued as so much more than just a machine. It’s your human qualities like your experience, your insight, your unique skills and passions that bring the most value to your workplace.
Volume is great, but focused presence is better and more valuable. Spend some time taking stock of your current skill set and the skills you want to grow in the year ahead. Utilize tools such as Strengthsfinder or a simple journaling exercise to get started. Learning to recognize the unique elements you possess and the ways in which your incredible work contributes to wider conversations will help to keep you centered in the value of your work, even if you go through a period of lessened productivity.
We can become more well-rounded outside of work.
If we’re going to learn to separate our sense of self-worth from our productivity, we have to first learn who we are outside of the working context. Aside from your main gig, side hustle and passion projects, who are you? Who do you want to be? What are your values, interests and dreams?
The experiences we have outside of our cubicle are just as vital as the time we spend inside it, because life is what fuels our creativity and drive. We have to be seeking inspiration, growth and joy if we hope to contribute long term to a role and company we care about. Cultivating this relationship with ourselves is our real life’s work. It also makes us healthier and less frantic in our achieving ways.
Nobody’s doubting that you’re a powerhouse, Achiever. You do amazing things and it’s awe-inspiring to watch. My hope is that if you ever go through a bout of less than stellar productivity, you won’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, learn to accept that you are valuable, respected and admired not just because of the incredible things you do, but because of the amazing individual that you are. Celebrate that. Got any other ideas for how to separate your self-worth from your productivity? Share them in the comments below!
Who are you outside of the “working context?”
Image via Jason Barbagellot for Darling Issue No. 22