I invite you to consider the following. If you’re similar to most high achieving individuals in this world (and you probably are if you’re reading this post), you have a daily “to do” list that you generate and focus on completing. Your list can take many forms – some of you have a detailed internal list that keeps you up at night; some have a formal written list with technical backup; and, some have a list quickly scribbled on whatever piece of paper or take out menu happens to be available in the moment. Your “to do” list serves to dictate your actions in the present and over time.
The common denominator for any type of “to do” list is the assumption that accomplishing the items on the list will directly lead to meaningful results, accomplishments and success. Unfortunately, for many of us, our “to do” list is actually a “busy” list, one that serves as a seductive distraction from what really matters to us. Although we get to check items off of our list each day, the tasks on our list actually divert our attention from those actions that align with our highest values and goals. Ironically, when our “to do” list is essentially a “busy” list, completing the tasks on the list is equivalent to what I refer to as the “hamster wheel effect.” Although the hamster earnestly runs on a lovely wheel inside of his/her lovely cage, the hamster’s precious life energy is depleted under the illusion of forward movement. When our “to do” list is essentially a “busy” list, our actions fail to bring us closer to what truly matters and directly lead to accelerated burnout and exhaustion.
Antidote to Exhaustion
The antidote to the “hamster wheel effect” of exhaustion and burnout is comprised of an optimal blend of intention and awareness; it requires that we consciously pause and step back to view our life from a strategic meta-perspective. Specifically, we commit to asking ourselves the big questions around meaning and intention, including:
- What do I value?
- What do I want to create personally and professionally in my life?
- What am I willing to take on as personal and professional goals?
- Am I willing to do whatever it ethically takes to reach my goals?
When we regularly evaluate our “to do” list to ensure that our tasks are in service of our value-based goals, we set the stage for meaningful action and results. Increasing our awareness regarding what we are doing each day and whether our actions align with our value-based goals, serves to keep us on track toward accomplishing what is personally meaningful. When our actions align with our values, we generate increased levels of excitement, passion, motivation and energy; we are able to employ our talents and skills in service of what truly matters in our lives.
I invite you to ask yourself the questions above on a regular basis, commit to aligning your actions with your answers to these questions and notice the difference in your enthusiasm, motivation, results, energy and spirit. What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain?
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