I was one of those over-scheduled, overachieving kids who are pitied, and whose parents are ridiculed, in the popular press. A regular day for my high school self might include school swim team practice in the morning, editing the school newspaper at lunch, and dance team practice immediately after school. I’d change from dance pants into a leotard in the car on my way to my dance studio, where I’d spend a few more hours cranking away at my turnout and lifting my gaze to the mezzanine without ever wilting from exhaustion or grimacing from the pain in my blistered feet.
I loved it. I was always busy, always doing something, always working toward the inchoate, barely tangible goal I knew only as THE FUTURE. Every single moment was occupied with keeping my 4.0 and getting into college.
Those two outcomes were the only metrics of success I could fathom. And then they happened, and they were lifechanging and magical and all of the other trite adjectives they’re supposed to be. And then.
And then what? I suddenly no longer had some castle in the sky I was building, brick by inspired brick. I had sailed by the outcomes that had once supplied me with structure and motivation, and I no longer knew by what principles I ought to organize my life. I gained weight. I stopped exercising. I drank too much, and ate too much ice cream. Lethargy and despondency followed.
I wish I could say I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, identified some new dreams to chase, and reignited that fire that burned inside, but I can’t take that much credit. I did banish the lethargy and invite some optimism in, but the way I found my way out of that mess required a paradigm shift, not a return to former glory.
Over the past ten years or so, I’ve learned to motivate myself even in the absence of demanding coaches and overarching life goals. It hasn’t been a smooth road; without structure, it turns out, I’m inherently lazy, and frequently require material rewards to get my ass in gear. In other words, the secret sauce hasn’t been perfected yet, but I’ll share the work in progress here, and also ask for your help in figuring out how to deal with those pesky, couch-potato alter egos.
That’s what being a successful adult is all about, anyway, right? Learning how to do best by yourself, especially when you have only yourself to answer to?
I get the sense that it’s not a place you arrive at; instead, it’s a place you just have to keep seeking. So here goes!