When you want to compartmentalise but that’s not the goal

August 17, 2020

I’m one of those people who likes to be busy. Scratch that. Who needs to be busy. I’m goal oriented across most aspects of my life. I’ve realised that this is a coping strategy to counter poor focus and distraction. We instinctively develop coping strategies for ourselves when we find that something isn’t working for us.

Setting goals has worked really well for me throughout my adult life. It was something I started to do as I turned 20. I think I was spurred on by being the youngest and last of four, jostling for a place amongst older, stronger characters where there was no room for passengers. And goals can also offer a bridge to cross from the present moment to a future state which can appear more inviting.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time enjoying my own company. Occupying myself comes naturally and I always have a ‘list’ of one type or another on the go.

Although my parents gave me the space to find my path, I will never forget landing my first ‘proper’ career job and my mum telling me that her regular taxi driver had reassured her that it would all fall into place for me one day! So clearly she had been quietly worrying to herself – and to him!

Once my career had direction, there was no stopping me. At the start of each decade, I set myself targets as to what I’d learn, earn and where my role would take me. I went from nought to 100 miles an hour and became highly driven.

At this time my values started to solidify and I was guided by a strong sense of fairness, loyalty and wanting to do the right thing. I started to get a bit more serious about watching my weight and keeping fit and I became more purpose-led, both in my career and in fundraising too, setting fitness targets supported by sponsorship goals.

It is well documented though, that being driven can cause individuals to burn out or experience overwhelm which in turn, can lead to crippling anxiety. I experienced this. It impacted fluctuations in my weight and temperament.

I’d been taught to be proud and independent and to ‘rely on yourself and that is bad enough’. I had tapped into a nuclear core of energy that kept powering me on.

Therefore I could see no way of taking my foot off the pedal in times of need. I was simply not wired that way. I studied, worked full time, part time and also for myself. The compartments of my life for fun, holidays and fitness were squeezed amongst work and professional studies which often took over. This set a pattern for my life.

Thirty years later with the benefit of the resources now available to me, I wish I could have taught the younger me that it was ok to not be ok and to set goals to better learn to blend the compartments of my life and to stop and smell the roses along the way. I’m sorry to say too, that employers then were ‘old school’ and checking in on mental and physical well being was not de rigeur as it increasingly is now. Beware. Drive can also be a time thief.