There is a challenge that faces highly-motivated people, which is a constant drive to do more. Call it a feedback loop of expected achievement. Call it over-ambition. Or, call it what I call it: Shark Syndrome, because sharks, in order to breathe, must be constantly in motion. Regardless of what you call it, it’s a pressing issue — and, as Andrew Dumont points out on 99u, it can actively hinder your ability to succeed. But Andrew has a great suggestion to overcome it.
“Each year most of us set goals…But goals, not unlike objectives that are set by a board in a business, are fluid things. Circumstances and priorities change; what’s a priority in January seems laughable in December,” he explains. His solution?
“Each quarter I have a recurring calendar notification that holds time for my personal board meeting. Yes, a board meeting with myself.”
But you don’t have to actually, say, book a meeting room and bring a PowerPoint presentation. A meeting with yourself can be much more casual. The main point of the meeting is to set aside enough time to really reevaluate the goals you’ve set for yourself, and decide which to keep pursuing and which to move, reevaluate, or terminate altogether.
“During this board meeting, I review my goals, analyze my performance over the preceding time period, and re-prioritize goals based on what I wish to accomplish and what can wait,” explains Andrew.
One of the biggest obstacles of Shark Syndrome is the nebulous nature of goals. They loom like dark clouds on the horizon, but often, they’re moving targets. Which can leave you feeling like you’ve always got something to do, but no actionable steps. At your meeting with yourself, you can assign out action items, which are tangible steps that can be taken toward individual goals. You can also shift your goals, because, over time, you’ve probably changed. Which means your goals might need to change, too.
“When we develop our ideas of our career direction, we think of all the great things about that position. Usually there are several steps and a few positions to pursue before you arrive. At each step you get better visibility, as well as more personal insight,” writes Dorothy Tannahill Moran, adding that “it might not be that great now that you can see it better; or you simply might not want to do what it takes to make that next step.
A meeting with yourself is also a good time to decide which goals just simply aren’t feasible. Because it’s possible that a long-help career milestone or other goal just isn’t going to happen, and that chasing it down can crush your overall productivity. Knowing when to quit can be the most difficult — and liberating — lesson of them all.
In her book, Impossible Is Stupid, author Osayi Osar-Emokpae writes that “quitting is not giving up, it’s choosing to focus your attention on something more important.”
“Quitting is not losing confidence, it’s realizing that there are more valuable ways you can spend your time. Quitting is not making excuses, it’s learning to be more productive, efficient and effective instead. Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength,” she explains. And only by re-checking in with your goals, at least several times per year, will you know what is the most important, and what might be right to let go of, or put off until another, better time.