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I had a melt down. In my therapists office.
Usually I arrive on time, ready to do some head work, explore my feelings, etc. But this Monday I walked in, sat down, and cried for about 50 minutes. The last 15 months I have had this interesting relationship with the concept of “overwhelm”. Everyone says starting a business is hard, that you will work a lot, and they are right. But it’s uncommon for people to really get down and nitty gritty with what happens when you have had too much. Well, let me tell you. For me, it starts with zero productivity. I will sit there just staring at things. My eyes glaze over, and then I feel anxiety or like my body is humming. I described it the other day as the bottom of a square. Then the waterworks. Tears, lots of tears. And picking fights with people, and reclusiveness, and a huge feeling of aloneness.
So, as I explore my relationship with overwhelm I start to see some trends, thank you therapy. First off, and thanks to my amazing soul sister and bizznass mentor Katie Den Ouden, she straight up told me my overwhelm is what I say I feel when I feel like shit and I don’t know why. When there is too much and I’m stuck and I can’t figure it all out…I call that overwhelm. It’s a placeholder for deeper under the surface crapola.
So, what’s under there….
1st – The first is my perfectionist gene.
This is a gene that we work on a lot in therapy. I grew up thinking that if I got perfect grades, ran fast, and was the daughter all my parents friends wished they had, that nobody would find fault with me. Nobody could criticize or put me down. Do you know me, have you met me? I’m nice as shit. I really am. I have like a huge page full of testimonials to prove it. And I care deeply about people. But to be honest, there is inner nice (me sometimes), and there is nice due to the fear of people seeing you as “not nice” (or as an elitist….a huge hot button for me). They are two different things. One is a hustle for approval (I call her the nice-hustler), the other is integrity (inner nice).
Of course when I’m nice or in nice-hustler mode, I still get criticism, and that can really feed the perfectionist in me. To this day, when I get feedback and criticism I respond in one of two ways….I let it go with compassion (inner nice girl coming out) or I tell myself I need to be more perfect (nice-hustler mode). And the truth is, all that feedback and criticism is actually kinda bull shit.
“Feedback and criticism doesn’t tell you about you, it tells you about the person giving the feedback” -Tara Mohr
(PS This quote works for positive feedback too…it’s not really about me, more about what the person giving the praise values, you can read more in Taras book: Playing Big)
So I know all this in my noggin’, but when when I’m stressed it’s like my autopilot turns on, and I go right there, the hustle for nice comes out. Remember how sometimes the car just drives itself home when you are headed to Target…. like that!
When I have many things on my plate (as we all do) but I don’t move them off my plate because I am trying to man-handle the results (wrestle a large bear….the Revenant comes to mind) then OVERWHELM is the answer.
to move past it…. I have to repeat over and over
“Punt that shit” <— a quote from my assistant which means ask others to do stuff for you, get tasks off your plate. Because the deep inner me values people and their contributions. The minute I hand something off to someone else I tend to love what they do with it. I love people, I love how they make things their own.
“Perfect is the enemy of good” <— truth bomb… repeat… repeat… repeat
2nd – Under there is my big fatty FEAR friend.
Ahh, I hate my darn fear friend. Here’s what my fear friend likes to scream “YOU ARE YOUR RESULTS” and he looks like this:
(When I was little I called this guy the CREDIBLE hulk…..haha, makes me laugh every time)
I’m wicked afraid of failure. I think we all are to some extent, in our own way, kinda hard-wired for it, ya know? My major fear around failure is that of abandonment. I’m afraid if I don’t train my coach won’t want to work with me, if I fail as a coach my athletes will leave, if I fail as a business women both my athletes and my assistant coaches will leave, if I fail as a wife my husband will leave, or if I fail as a parent my daughter will leave me. Abandonment is a big one with me and so often when I am screaming “OVERWHELM” the deeper thing under the surface is that I think if I don’t do everything on my to do list I will let people down, and they will leave me. I attach results to relationships. And again, my brain knows thats dumb. My brain knows that relationships are built on how you treat people, your integrity, your ability to relate, etc. But as stress creeps up, and I want to let go of half the tasks in my life, and the first thing my brain screams is “The people…they will leave.”
The result is that in times of overwhelm I often neglect myself, feel like a slave to business, slave to training, slave to household chores, slave to others. Thank you big fatty FEAR friend.
To move past it….this is what I gotta throw down:
“You are responsible for your results, but you are not them” <— I remind myself I am responsible, I have power in this situation, they are not me, they are outcomes.
“Put your oxygen mask on first” <— people can read self sacrifice on you in 2 seconds flat. We teach people how to treat us. bottom line.
3rd – I let my systems wall get breeched.
We all have systems in life. Routines, systems, trends, whatever… For a long time I was a self proclaimed hater of habit. Bleh. But what I have come to understand is that you have to be a hater of habit when you are in the mode of attending to everyone else’s needs before your own. They say business is the fastest path to self discovery, and it’s true, I’ve learned more about myself in the last 15 months than I had in eight years of triathlon. I realized very quickly that I needed systems in place to run a successful business, I learned that in month 3. I never even thought that way about the rest of my life because I spent it being an integral part of other peoples efficient systems. So I researched some systems, I picked one, and I threw myself head first into it.
In comes Todd Herman and the 90 day year.
I put his systems in place in my business, and then my training and home life got wrapped into it as well. Overwhelm comes up when I think I’m good enough to leave the system. If I simply wake up, meditate, eat, plan my day, block and tackle, prioritize tasks, do the hard stuff first, and run on 90 day year cycle I have set up for myself via the 90DY, I chug chug chug away at life, training, business, etc. and overwhelm isn’t a part of my life. When my systems get breeched… I get overwhelmed and then #1 and #2 start directing the lifetime mini-series. “Sonja…overwhelmed to death…. my life as a Lifetime movie”
Todd is in the middle of his big June launch. He’s actually sharing so much of his content that I had to pay to see a year ago. I can’t imagine what he’s creating for us after the doors close, since he has already made public so much of what contributes to my current systems. Excite. If you want to watch, here:
I run my life, training, business, etc on 90 day cycles now. I even put together the most BADASS planner for myself to help. Todd’s work on “context switching” is one of the most rockin’ business educational pieces I have ever received. In July I head to New York City to work in a small group with Todd for 24 hours. It’s a different kind of endurance event!
So, what landed me crying in my therapist on Monday? I had let my systems go for a few days, was winging it, and running after all the little to dos in life. I was letting the finer details scream at my perfectionist gene and I was contemplating dropping out of my races this year because I don’t have time to train 25-30 hours a week any more. Seems silly when I write it, but when my fear and perfectionist minds are barking their heads off AND I ditch my systems, this is what results. At the end of that session we had quieted the perfection brain, it was already lighting up with things that I needed to punt and hadn’t. My fear brain was reminded of the very recent talk with Coach Muddy and how our relationship is more than coach athlete at this point. He’s a father figure, and a mentor whom I can lean on regardless of training hours.
And I came home, logged in to Trello (I heart you Trello) reprioritized my control panel (death to the to do list….I work with a control panel these days) and I got the heck on with things.