Overextending Ourselves In The Name of Success + How to Escape This Loop
Success is a personal experience. It is subjective.
For some people, it means building an empire worth billions of dollars.
While for some, it simply means being content with where you are and what you have.
So there’s no common metric that can calculate how successful a person is.
And yet, how we define the path to “success” can propel us to our next level or it get us into serious trouble.
It can build us up, keep us stuck, or even break us down.
Let’s take a minute and look at the things that we’ve been taught on how to be successful:
Work really hard
Always give your best
Say the right things
Go the extra mile
Strive for greatness
No pain, no gain
And the most important of all - Never Give Up!
Over time, those success tips have become rules. They’ve become requirements that we have to meet in order to “feel” successful.
But when we try to look at the big picture, we realize that these requirements don’t necessarily bring us the elusive success that we seek.
In fact, there are people who clearly don’t follow these rules and yet they are happy, thriving and successful in life.
What’s disheartening is that when we reflect on the topic of “success” closely, we realize that we are doing a lot of things not for the purpose of succeeding but for the purpose of satisfying the people who’ve laid out the rules.
Our parents. The teachers. Religious authorities. Mentors. Employers. And sometimes even our friends also have a say in our success.
So now we don’t just feel unsuccessful - we also feel resentful and exhausted.
As we work harder and try harder to meet the requirements for success, we don’t notice that we are already overextending ourselves to the point of exhaustion… and without really achieving anything concrete.
We overextend ourselves diligently because this is “how” they say we can succeed.
These things don’t make us successful, they actually make us over-extenders:
Glorifying busyness, over-scheduling
Saying “YES” to everything
Excessive self-reliance, not asking for help
Equating value to productivity, output
Ignoring basic signals from the body (rest, hunger, pain)
Having no time for close, intimate relationships
Never-ending to-do lists
Powering through burnout
Sticking to rationality without emotionality
On a personal note, it took me two weeks to respond to my friend’s voice note.
My excuse, as always, “I’m so busy, I’ve got so much going on.”
Have I been busy? Yes. So much so that I don’t have time to connect with a friend through a quick note? No.
I did have time...to say “yes” to another request. I did have time to add more things to my to-do list. I did have time to pile on more productivity, busyness, skip through lunch and equate it to my… success… to my value and worth.
This is not success. This is overextending.
In my case, I know it’s related to something I’m avoiding. Some decisions I’m trying to put off. It’s also tied to my perfectionism and need for external validation.
The moment I start making zero time for my relationships, that’s when I know… it’s time to rest, recalibrate and remove things from my to-do list. Check-in with my avoidance behaviors and get to the core.