Hey overachiever, give yourself a break

So many of the amazing lawyers we work with around the world sometimes have no idea that they are such overachievers (in the most positive way possible). The problem being an overachiever though is that it generally goes hand in hand with being hard on yourself. Just going to law school and coming out the other end with a degree makes you infinitely more privileged than the vast majority of people who never go to, or get through, tertiary education. Now, I have no idea what your personal circumstance is, but I'm willing to bet that at times you judge yourself against a higher standard than anyone else would ever judge you. The problem with having such high expectations of yourself is that, while they can motivate you, they can also have an impact on your enjoyment, even when you are winning, and act to make you really dissatisfied in the long term.

Why do I write about this? Well, I have always struggled with my own sense of value. I have always been the guy who might enjoy the win, but always think I could have done a bit better. Or, simply, created a loss out of a draw (or win!).

While being a tough taskmaster can help propel us - and it certainly does - it's not the same as being unable to stop and smell the roses.

Signs you need to give yourself a break

  • Negative self-talk is a really great sign that you are your own worst critic. Are you that guy who berates himself for missing the clutch shot? Or the one who completely loses it internally if they get constructive feedback?

  • Working yourself into the ground, only to wind up still not completely satisfied with the work you've produced.

  • Being unable to accept positive feedback from colleagues or superiors.

  • Feelings of failure or feeling “out of control” when receiving criticism or when things don't turn out as well as planned?

The power of thankfulness, being humble and understanding your value

Try being upset with yourself while being humble and thankful - it's basically impossible. When we reflect on what is great in our life and with our achievements, or simply just find something to be thankful for in our day, it can change the entire complexion of our mood.

While this might be a bit uncomfortable for most of us to admit, it can actually be our ego at play when we get all worked up about our current situation and how others' actions are impacting upon it.

Control freak much?

Let's be honest, a large part of what upsets us in situations where we don't live up to our own lofty heights is an issue with control. Personally, I saw this play out during the last few economic downturns. I was able to very successfully blame myself for the situation in my business brought on by the GFC, or Brexit, or any less than a great year. I wanted to be in control of my destiny, so it sucked realising that it was actually out of my control.

Fear of things being too good

Oh, this is a really scary one. When you don't want to say something is good because then it will turn bad.

Anyone else found themselves thinking in a superstitious way like this? If I'm thankful and positive in my reflection, bad stuff might happen because I am getting big-headed about things?

Sadly there are societal and physiological reasons why we do this to ourselves, but, we can recognise it and try to deal with it instead of letting it be our dominant response. Treading very carefully around religion, the reality for a lot of people is that they grow up with a sense of being fearful of their own actions. It's so ingrained in us that we even have terms like “Murphy's Law” and sayings about bad luck that reiterate this thought process in all of us.

Guess what: being happy and thankful won't make the universe turn against you. If you were that powerful you'd have wished winning the lotto into existence and wouldn't be reading this blog!