Whenever a client says, “I am a planner,” I totally relate. For many years, my own life was a “perfectly constructed orchestration” of what I planned or had planned for me. I had an Adrien Agenda for Life. Growing up, I had a trajectory of which I was supposed to aim. Location, education, grades, income, trappings, status, association with important people, initials after our names. These “achievements” were believed to add confidence and status in a dog-eat-dog world of D.C. professionals.
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I don’t fault my parents. They wanted to teach the four of us children to aim for a lifestyle and status nor the tools like we were blessed to use and understand that they did not have. Then as an adult, I took on this agenda like it was an Olympic sport!
My life was a continual plan, agenda, state of trying and trying – again yet harder- if I didn’t “succeed.” When I did succeed, temporarily, I’d get a quick “fix” like an addict. I’d feel super confident and accomplished, yet soon after, I’d realize I wanted more.
“We are always on our way to some better place in the future” Jon Kabat-Zinn
I was hooked in the cycle of trying, trying harder, succeeding/not succeeding, and never being truly content. In fact, I never really reached “the top” because I was rarely satisfied. When things got uncomfortable, I tapped into my controlling and planning. When I wasn’t successful, I’d try harder. As an adult in the hard-charged corporate setting, control was the name of my game. I was shocked the “politicking” and maneuvering for position and status in a corporate setting was worse than my days on Capitol Hill.
I was stuck in trying mode 24/7. Pushing and pleasing, and aiming was my focus. It was then I realized perhaps this wasn’t for me. When the unplanned occurred, it rocked me, catapulting me often into days of stress, of tightening, and of trying to gain control desperately. However, trying to control things around me was causing more harm than good. In a way, I was trying to protect myself from “failure,” or better yet, being perceived as a “failure.”
Being a planner, someone who wants control may mean you are like me. I was:
- Over protecting myself from being disappointed
- Judging myself day and night
- Trying harder every day
- “Running” off my poor food choices because when I wasn’t successful, I needed a reward of wine or overindulgence
- Using food/drink for comfort, not fuel
- Stressed out
I am convinced stress is at the core of most health and wellness challenges. It’s hard to believe it because we can’t see it, yet it leads us to behave in ways that don’t serve us. It is why we snap at our kids, lose sleep, and feel more often than not always frustrated.
Under this guise of “always-climbing,” our brain and the body (since our body is governed by our brain!) tightens and shifts to focusing on a narrower world around us. It loses perspective of circumstances outside of that thing we’re trying to fix. We over-blow the thing we’re trying to fix and miss out on so much joy right in front of our faces.
When we are always doing, always “on,” we miss out on so many cues. We miss out on the opportunity to carefully and lovingly craft the language we use and really connect with others around us. We miss out on insecurities with team members at work and friends at our get-togethers. We miss out on asking, “how are you really doing today” and listening deeply for the answer. We miss out on the beauty around us. We miss out on perspective. We miss out on life.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” Jack Kornfield
The longer the “to do” list, the more I encourage you, like I did, to focus on the present and to work on gaining perspective.
I am still on my very long journey toward refining my tools for living a mindful life. I figure I will be in this space of curating what works for me for the rest of my life. It is a “work in progress.” Yet now that I’ve actually felt days and weeks without reactionary stress, this I know will be a successful pursuit of which I will try to perfect. Instead, I will pursue it with eyes wide open!
If you are interested in starting today, to calm your stress, before we chat, try these three ways. I have a list of 25 I’ll be sharing with you next week. My top three (free) tools are:
1. Daily mindfulness to strive less and seek greater self-awareness.
2. Daily exercise
3. Examine how and with whom you are spending your time.
“The anxiety of worry is almost always worse than the actual consequences. Stop worrying and start doing.” James Clear