I’m a recovering overachiever and perfectionist. When in moderation my commitment to excellence serves me well. Running amok it leaves me stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
Most recently events at work have triggered my perfectionism in some not so pretty ways. For a start, I’m doing things I have never done before. And then there’s the fact that I’m attaching my name to a big, ambitious project that could fail… The future is unknown, but right this moment it’s hard to deny that I’m stewing in a broth of utter uncertainty.
This pushes me to work hard and do everything as perfect as possible… Trying to squeeze some small sense of control out of the situation.
As you can imagine, this never ends well. Fortunately, I’ve found a tool – the perfect antidote to perfectionism and stress at work.
The Most Powerful Thing You Can Do to Make Your Workday Less Stressful
What I’ve learned over the years is that stress needs more than management. There are great techniques for dealing with pressure at work. Think: deep breathing, meditation, or time management techniques. And so I use many of them frequently to great avail. But I’ve found that nothing gets to the heart of what causes my stress quite like purpose.
That’s because when you know your purpose…
You get clear on what’s important (and what really isn’t)
When I ask myself why I’m doing what I do—what impact I want to have with it—I realize that for me it’s always about helping people.
I want to support people so they can go on the path less traveled, discover who they are, find out how much they have to offer the world, and realize that they already have everything they need within them.
And when I’m remembering how important that is to me, a lot of other things seem less crucial. Like being successful. Or making a lot of money. Or pleasing everyone else or living up to their expectations. And that means that…
You know what to say NO to
No one can do it all. If you are anything like me, you are happy to admit that that is true for everyone else whilst feeling like no matter how much you do, it’s never enough.
And so, when you know your purpose, it becomes clear what’s necessary to your intentions and what isn’t. Which means you know when enough is enough and you know what you need to say no to. Besides…
Saying NO becomes easier
When I tell someone I won’t be doing something, I’m prone to feeling selfish or like a failure. Though, when I do it because saying no is going to make me more effective in my purpose, I realize that I’m doing us all a favor. And that makes it way less challenging.
Knowing what’s important also means that…
You don’t have to do everything
You can focus on what matters and de-prioritize what doesn’t. That means you can cut things off your To Do list or allow some things to wait until later. This tends to make work feel a lot less hectic. It also helps that…
You don’t have to do everything perfectly
Say what? You mean the world won’t fall apart if I don’t get everything just right?
When you observe your purpose long enough, you start to see that you can make loads of mistakes. Yes, tons of things can go wrong, and lots of things can be incomplete, and yet still your purpose is served. It’s kind of shocking to someone like me.
You’re able to ask for help
For a lot of us, asking for help makes us feel rude or inadequate. Though, if you’re clear on your purpose, you realize that you’re not just asking for yourself. You’re also asking for the sake of the impact you want to have, an impact that everyone will benefit from. You see that asking for help is not so much about you as it is about working together to make good things happen. So you’re free to delegate, receive support, and rely on others to your heart’s content. And on a similar note…
Taking care of yourself becomes more important
We all want to take care of ourselves. Raise your hands who set the intention to eat better, sleep more, exercise more, and meditate? But so many things seem to get in the way. When you realize that not taking care of yourself is getting in the way of sharing everything you have to offer with the world, you realize it’s quite important. Far from being selfish, self-care is good for you and everyone else.
Sounds like a paradox, but by recognizing that your existence here is not just about you, you’re much more able to invest in yourself. You’re free to take care of yourself. Take breaks, go on walks, exercise, rest, or do whatever you need… with as much kindness and compassion as you can muster.
Which leads me to my final point…
You’re not so worried about the outcome
Will my project be a success? Will lots of people like it? Will I make lots of money? I don’t know. I can’t know. Yet, I drive myself crazy worrying about it or trying to figure it out ahead of time.
What I’ve found, though, when I’m paying enough attention, is that I can fulfill my purpose in lots of different ways. Often I have the most powerful impact when I least expect it. And there are usually ways to serve my purpose no matter which result I get.
What this means is that the outcome is not that important. And if I don’t have to strive so diligently towards one outcome, that takes a lot of the pressure off. I’m free to let go, just take whatever action feels right, go at my own pace, and maybe even enjoy the ride!