A loser’s game: why the pressure to perform undermines results

pressure to perform

Many of us feel we have to work ourselves into the ground just to feel like we’ve earned some rest. We have come to believe that anything less than perfect just doesn’t cut the mustard. Something here is most definitely out of whack.

Finding Plenty is having a siesta.

For two days I’ve been trying to squeeze out the new content for Finding Plenty and for two days I’ve just got more and more worried that there is nothing new to share. I’m off camping very soon and I’ve been trying to get 4 perfectly formed, totally inspirational posts in place before I disappear for a long-awaited holiday.

It’s as if don’t deserve to have a break unless everything is done, perfect and in place. It’s like the break has to be earned.

You’ve probably been there yourself. Somehow we have got it into our heads that we’re supposed to do 4 weeks’ worth of work in order to have a fortnight away. We’re supposed to cover every angle, address every possible eventuality and leave our contact number in case anything goes wrong.

This doesn’t work.

I find that this self-imposed pressure in advance of a break is a sure-fire way to stop anything actually getting done. I start to panic. My inner control freak breaks free from its housing and runs rampage on my imagination and plans. In other words, when the pressure piles on, the productivity stops.

And the control freak turns its attention back to me.

The control freak has an agenda. He’s decided what needs to be done, and what will happen when it (surprisingly enough…) isn’t complete. He’d rather stand over my shoulder and crack the whip even when I’m so stuck there’s no chance I’ll ever get out of the mire. Even if he does get me moving, it doesn’t really matter – whatever I DO manage to achieve won’t be up to scratch.

Even if the plan is realistic (it often isn’t), this approach is totally counter-productive. My inner control freak has totally missed the point.

The point, you see, is that the pressure to get stuff done is the very thing that stands between you and the results you crave. This drive to live up to expectations (your own?), achieve targets (self imposed?) and produce perfection at every turn is the very thing that ensures it won’t get done. The pressure is telling you you’re not good enough. It’s demanding you prove you deserve a break/ a paycheque/ appreciation/ love. And while you wait to be worthy, it’s shutting you off from the joy of being alive.

Without that joy, there is no inspiration, no motivation; you forget who you are and have nothing to give.

You shut YOURSELF out of your life, and your life shuts down, too.

Take a break

Today I gave up. I went out. I cleaned the car and enjoyed some sun, ate an ice-cream and chatted with friends. Then I came back to my work and dove straight in. I was refreshed; my head was clear; I was ready. It was easy to start.

Oh, and the email I was waiting for had arrived, and a message I’d hoped for, and someone had shared some of my stuff. The sort of thing that never happens while you sit and wait.

Things happen when you leave them alone. Try to push them into place, and the world digs in its heels. Take a break: it goes against everything we have learnt about achievement, but it works.

Which brings me full circle: Finding Plenty is taking time out. For 10 days I’ll be refreshing, regrouping, taking myself out the loop. I’ll be working on new ideas, getting refreshed and having some fun. The control freak is going to have to chill.

I know you’ll understand.


In the comments: In this world we’ve trained ourselves that results = worthiness, but I think this misses the point. What are your thoughts?


Image by Austin Ban on Unsplash.com

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