Sunday, January 26, 2014

"If It's Worth Doing, It's Worth Over Doing"

"Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well." ~Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield

This has been part of my personal code of ethics in recent years.  It's the reason I throw myself head first into any project I take on.  It's why I'm a good employee.  It's why I practice hard and study hard and work hard.  Because, damn it, if I'm going to spend time doing it...I'm going to be good at it!

But really I'm a perfectionist...and more than a little obsessive...and probably overly competitive.  So for me, it turns into something more like this quote:

"If it's worth doing, it's worth over doing." ~Ayn Rand

Go big or go home.  Pour your heart and soul into whatever it is you're doing or just walk away.  Do as much as possible.  Give as much as possible.  Try your hardest.  Play to win.  Be extravagant.  Go all the way.  Do whatever needs to be done to win or just go home a loser.

Yeah...that about sums up my life's philosophy.

And there's nothing wrong with that kind of commitment and gusto when you're talking about Olympic athletes or Navy Seals or Wall Street Go-Getters.  But what if I apply this philosophy to Christmas baking or my kids' birthday parties or cleaning the bathroom?

Because I do.

And it's stressful.

It's incredibly stressful.  And it fills my days with overachieving madness.

I have a hard time saying "no".  Chances are if you ask me to "please work your shift" or "proof read this essay I wrote for my college application" or "dog sit for me while I'm out of the country for the next six months even though my dog really, really hates people and will pee all over your furniture"...I will probably say yes.  Sometimes I even say yes to things people haven't actually asked me to do...but that I think they might want me to do...or that I think maybe I should do to be a better person.

Yeah, I know.  Crazy psycho person.  That's me.

But if you were just now thinking about calling me up and asking me to volunteer for your church bake sale, let me stop you right there.  Because I've realized something super important about those Earl of Chesterfield and Ayn Rand quotes, something I read right over in my fervor to be outstanding.  In fact, it might be THE most important concept they were trying to convey, and it doesn't have anything to do with the "doing well" or the "over doing" parts.  But it does have everything in the world to do with the "worth doing" parts.

Because while everything worth doing might be worth doing well, I have a habit of filling my days with things that really just aren't worth doing.  And every action I choose (since nothing takes place in a vacuum) is chosen in the context of everything else I could be doing.  While choosing to spend my time and energy on something that is really not worth doing (in relation to my core values and long-term goals) is done at the expense of something else that is much more worth doing (although I do try super hard to do absolutely just rarely works out that I'm able to.  I like to pretend I'm super human, but my cape hasn't come in yet).

If I honestly look at my mental To Do List from the past week, of both tasks done and undone, there are very few things there that were really worth doing.  I'm not even talking about the mundane management tasks like laundry and cooking and dusting and walking the dogs, because in their own way, they are worth doing.  They keep me and my family healthy and clean and happy (because when the dogs aren't happy, nobody's happy).  I'm actually referring to the time I wasted checking Facebook.  Or working the second job that brings me little satisfaction and only a small amount of extra income.  Or the time wasted watching the evening news.  Or meeting with "acquaintances" I really don't have the time to socialize with, but can't seem to say "no" to.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point.  I need to cut meaningless commitments and time-wasters and one-sided relationships.  If I'm going to be an over-doer (and I don't think there's anything I can do to stop myself from being an extreme over-achiever who doesn't know when to stop), I need to focus and prioritize and eliminate the things not worthwhile.  Because I am just one person  who has to accept that she just can't do everything (darn it!), even when I am amped up on good coffee.

It's time to figure out what I actually value and spend my time and energy overdoing those things.  Which still might include Christmas baking, but I have eleven whole months to prepare for that.  I hope I have enough time.

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