In the previous sensory balance post we began a four-part exploration of how the second of our four inner senses—vitality—helps us imbue our experiences with meaning. In this installment, we provide vitality insights tailored to perfectionists and overachievers.
For Perfectionists and Overachievers
In chapter 11 on finding a guide, I talk about the role I play in supporting clients with accountability. Here is an overview for your convenience.
I collaborate with clients to develop and implement a plan of action to move them closer to their hearts’ desires. I support clients in achieving rapid, extraordinary, sustainable results by partnering and holding them accountable for what they commit to doing. In my experience, this takes one of two forms:
- Helping those who have difficulty holding themselves accountable to learn to do so with love and respect by creating a reasonable plan based on a series of achievable baby steps that will allow them to flow into completion.
- Helping those who’ve been accountable for everyone and everything since birth learn to eliminate much of what is on their list and, with love and respect, replace it with a reasonable plan based on a series of achievable baby steps that includes rest, reflection, and play at the top of the list. We can give nothing of lasting value from an empty well.
If you are in the latter group, then—having encouraged you to come up with a SMART plan for reaching your goals—I remind you that spontaneity is essential to a life of vitality. To illustrate the point, I will share two relevant examples from my own experience.
The life cycle of my blog site is a great illustration of how overplanning and ridiculously high standards can drain the vitality out of an otherwise joyful experience. Still high on the thrill of having launched my first blog site on the spur of the moment with no exhaustive plan (not my norm), on Saturday morning three days later, I decided my plan going forward would be to write a new installment every day. Now that was more like the overachieving, pain-in-the-tukus Deborah my friends and family know and wish to strangle.
Let’s take a wonderful, spontaneous event and turn it into an obligation. Let’s suck every ounce of fun out of that puppy and make it a burden. Because heaven knows Deborah doesn’t deserve to have fun. I mean, what would happen to the Universe if Deborah didn’t have both hands on the steering wheel of life, keeping everything orderly and everyone safe? I kid you not when I admit that I had to use a thesaurus to find a word that means “unplanned” or “unrehearsed” (duh, spontaneous) for the first sentence of this paragraph. I knew there must be a word like that, and it kept flitting hither and yon in my head, but for the life of me, I couldn’t grab onto it.
Why is it that spontaneity and I are such distant cousins? Because everyone knows that perfection is the only worthy goal in life and that perfection comes from planning, copious planning, nauseatingly exhaustive planning. Because planning controls destiny and keeps everyone safe, right? Not! Control is an illusion at best, and no amount of planning really controls anything. It organizes things and sometimes reduces the number of surprises, or the “surprisiness” of the surprises, but I firmly believe we do not make anything happen. If something is meant to be and you try to block it, it may take longer to manifest, but manifest it will. If it’s not meant to be, no amount of planning or remaking yourself into what you think the situation requires will make it happen. It will just tie you up in knots and make you and everyone you know cuh-ray-zee! Witness the final eight years of my consulting career.
Lest you accuse me of advocating irresponsibility and sloth, I do think it’s useful to plan. It’s just important for us to realize that the Universe may not be in alignment with our plans. If that turns out to be the case, the sooner we recognize it and get ourselves in alignment with life’s quirky, capricious, unpredictable plan, the happier we’ll all be. If the events of the past five plus decades have taught me anything it’s that despite my intelligence, intuition, and demonstrated anal retentive control freak planning skills, I sometimes don’t have any idea what’s best for me or anyone else. Thanks be to the Universe, which intervenes despite my best efforts to the contrary and forces Its plan on me whether I like it or not.
So back to my plan for my blog. Saturday I published two installments. Sunday I got busy with other things and missed a day. No problem. With two on Saturday, I was still on plan, I told myself, “averaging” one a day. Then Monday dawned bright and cheery. My plan for my day went like this: I’ll have breakfast, do my written meditation, write blog posts for the rest of the morning, have lunch, go to the gym, study in the afternoon, have dinner, and create art in the evening. Tired yet?
In reality, it went nothing like that. I got up and made the mistake of looking at my email, and then I answered emails, paid bills, filed papers, ate a miniscule breakfast on the run, went to the gym, was exhausted when I finished because I had consumed insufficient calories to fuel my workout, went home, made a huge healthy raw veggie salad for lunch with two ounces of protein and an apple, and then proceeded not to eat most of it, opting instead to catch up on my sewing work because I’m a tester for an independent machine embroidery designer and I’d fallen behind in my sewing the week before while working on that thirty-three-page life review for my life coaching certification. Yes, I realize that was a long sentence. It was a long day.
Two new sewing clients showed up at 1:00 p.m. (I had neglected to account for their planned visit in my plan for the day) and stayed for an hour looking at designs, chatting, and playing with my youngest cat, Maisy Jane, putting me even further behind (how dare they have fun on my watch). I then sewed until 9:30 p.m., managing to multitask by planning a seven-part series for the blog on how I lost all the weight and refining my notes for my next twenty-three-page life coaching certification paper. At this time I realized I had consumed a total of 480 calories to fuel me during the first fifteen and a half hours of my day (not how I lost the eighty pounds last year and not my recommended diet). Then, because I had promised myself and everyone who cares about me that I wouldn’t become anorexic as I did at age nineteen, I had to try to consume 1,500 more calories before bed. It’s not an ideal way to balance daily caloric intake, but if some days I have to pack most of them into the final waking hour of the day, then by Jove, I do it. Anorexia is no joke.
Whenever people imply I have issues with control, I object. I have no issues with control. I love it! Unfortunately, it doesn’t love me back. It’s not even my friend. Most of the time it laughs behind my back, and sometimes it has the audacity to laugh right in my face.
The next post will conclude this first vitality example tailored to perfectionists and overachievers.