“Live up to your potential, not down to other people’s expectations.”
“Are you okay?” asked one of my editors.
“Yeah,” I said. But I wasn’t.
It was 11.30pm and I had just returned from a lengthy press conference where a major political announcement had just been made. My article was due in the next twenty minutes.
A panic attack was quietly tightening its grip on me.
Although I didn’t want to admit it, work was beginning to feel like Groundhog Day.
I wanted to write, but in the fast-paced newsroom where I worked as a junior reporter close to fourteen hours a day, delving deep into subjects I was truly passionate about wasn’t something I was able to do.
Every day was chase, report, repeat. I wanted so much more than that.
But I refused to quit because I wasn’t a quitter, so I held on.
Six months later and a year-and-a-half into my job, waking up and going to work was leaving me feeling inadequate and empty. Every assignment I got felt like a massive struggle.
I was still adamant about not giving up, but I also knew that going on this way wasn’t a healthy option, so reluctantly, I chose to walk away from the newsroom.
Giving up made me feel like a failure at the time, but now as I look back, I see my decision for what it was: my instincts telling me what was a good fit for me and what wasn’t, and me, honoring it.
The one regret that I have is not realizing this and making the change sooner.
What happened when I subsequently went after the things that really called to me?
I looked forward to challenges, not dread them.
I gave 150 percent and never gave up.
If you constantly find yourself unable to finish what you start, jumping from one job, relationship, or diet to another without seeing progress, or feeling as if you’re a failure at everything you do, here are three things you need to do:
Stop trying to fix yourself and forcing yourself to do things you don’t really want to do.
Break the chain of moving from one thing to the next and trying to fit into a role that’s not right for you by taking some time out to figure out: What do you find meaningful and joyful, and how can you pursue that in your life instead of following your (or someone else’s) ‘shoulds’?
What can you do to feel purposeful, in control, and good about yourself, and see results, rather than constantly feel exhausted, empty, and as if you need to be fixed?
To get momentum going, try this simple exercise, which will help you get to the core of why you want something: Ask yourself “What do I want to accomplish?” When you’ve got the answer to this question, ask “Why?” Then, with whatever answer you come up with, ask why to that, and so on, five times.
Not sure how to begin? Here’s how it worked for me when I was struggling with my weight:
Q: What do you want to accomplish?
A: I want to stop binge eating.
Q: Why do you want to stop binge eating?
A: Because I want to feel in control of my body.
Q: Why do you want to feel in control of your body?
A: So I can feel confident.
Q: Why do you want to feel confident?
A: So I can stop avoiding social situations and feeling self-conscious about being overweight.
Q: Why do you want to stop avoiding social situations and feeling self-conscious about being overweight?
A: Because I want to start living again.
Q: Why do you want to start living again?
A: So I can get the most out of my life without wasting time hating how I look and feel.
This final answer put me in touch with a painful situation I never wanted to relive again. I wanted so much more out of life than that.
Yours, like mine did, will serve as a compelling reason to put in the work needed to accomplish what you set out to do, in congruence with your deepest-held values. It’ll pull you up and forward, not down.
Work with who you want to be—you’ll find yourself feeling whole instead of constantly struggling to connect the missing dots.
Focus on things you can control instead of focusing on outcomes.
There are a million things that are out of your control: the weather, natural disasters, what other people think of your presentation, and your colleague’s insensitive comment about your weight.
There are, however, a million other things that you can control.
These include the little habits you can nurture to help get you to where you want to be:
Waking up thirty minutes earlier to plan your day, parking a little further to get your daily 10,000 steps in, making a beeline for your colleague’s desk for a stress-relieving chat instead of to the pantry (where the donuts are), or responding to emails at fixed times during your day so you can work more efficiently and leave the office at 5pm to be with your kids.
Once a week, ask yourself: “How am I doing?”
If something isn’t working, find out why and focus on doing what you can do to change the outcome. You’re the captain of your ship—chart your course, do your best to be equipped with the skills that will help you weather storms that come your way, and let go of the rest.
Get out of the race—life’s not a competition.
You know the grind: Go, go, go! Deadlines are close. Time is money. Got to keep up with the Joneses. The clock’s ticking. That promotion is up for grabs. The thinner you are, the more popular you’ll be.
But what if this rush for bigger, better, faster, and thinner keeps leaving you burnt out, unhealthy, depressed, and frustrated?
Consider tweaking your priorities: Wouldn’t digging deep, zeroing on your deepest desires, and taking careful, methodical steps toward them leave you feeling calmer, happier, in your best shape ever, and focused on what matters to you in the long run?
The less you focus on competing with others, the more time you’ll have to spend on nurturing your own happiness and reaching your full potential.
So guess what? It’s time you gave up giving up on yourself.
If you’re ready to throw in the towel and walk away (again), what can you do to break this cycle to head in the right direction?
Unlock your potential image via Shutterstock
About Michele Lian
Michele has worn multiple hats over the years: emotional eating survivor, microbiologist, Deputy Editor at SHAPE Malaysia, American Council On Exercise-certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition-certified sports nutrition coach, and now, self-care advocate at michelelian.com. She’s fascinated with food, movement, and learning how to take better care of herself as she makes her way through this crazy, chaotic world, and her mission is to help you do the same.