The Pursuit of Excellence Practical steps toward happiness


Lowered Expectations

I am a productivity fanatic.

I get up early and after a healthy breakfast and some meditation I’ll write down my ten long term goals and a long to-do list for the day. I try to apply the 80/20 principle to everything I do and schedule every half hour of my day. Push, push, push.

Overloaded vehicle

In the last 12 months I’ve been ambitious. I ran an election campaign–eight 80 hour weeks of intense, emotional work. I moved apartments, ended a long-term relationship, and left a good job to finally start a business. It’s been long days of networking, business plans, and chasing investors.

At the same time I decided to start a writing career. I wrote a 65,000 word first draft of my book in six weeks and since January have been re-writing the second draft while attending a weekly writing workshop and applying for grants.

I started this website and freelance writing. I punish my body at CrossFit 4 times a week, have been teaching myself to play guitar, and reading voraciously while keeping a full social calendar.

The result? I’m badly burnt out.

Golf Wisdom

For months I’ve been asking myself why I can’t keep up the pace; why I haven’t hit my goals already. Every time I’ve slept in, skipped the gym, and just didn’t feel like working I’ve berated myself about it. I'd tap thatWith that much stress, getting started again was murder. And so the cycle continued…

My turning point came a few weeks ago while interviewing a former PGA champ for a magazine article about golf tips.

“Bring down your expectations and your game will improve,” he said. When golfers stress about sinking the putt they miss the shot. ‘Relax and enjoy’ was his advice.

Could I lower my expectations and enjoy more success?

Ongoing debate

Last week I came across an article at Lifehack asking Is it Time to Let Go of Productivity? It was a response to Leo Babauta’s zenhabits article Toss Productivity Out advocating tossing goals in favour of working on what you enjoy in the moment.

It is better to travel well than to arrive at the right destination
– Arthur C. Custance

The authors disagreed on the recipe for success but I was relieved to know that others have also been a victim of productivity.

The ideal balance of productivity and letting go will differ for everyone, but after my own failed experiment with hyper-productivity I don’t have much of a choice but to give the alternative a shot; to relax. To simplify. After all, I’m not a machine.

Do you need to lower your expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Original images at ForkParty and DonkeyTs

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  1. Very well written – enjoyed reading this!
    I agree that we ALL need to step back and out of ourselves sometimes, to see how overloaded we all have become. And yes, we do need to lower our expectations of ourselves indeed. I am enjoying a much simpler life now that i have decided to stop trying to do and be everything to all. I sleep better and enjoy life much more since i made the decision, that enough was enough. I do what i can and what i want to do for the most part, anything more is a BONUS! Thanks again for a well written article!! Cheers

  2. I can testify. I’m a student at university, and worked really hard to finish my exams in May, to get good grades. I got the grades I was hoping for! I did so well, and pushed myself so hard, that I thought I could continue. I tried to get prepared for the next year of university ahead of time, to ensure that my grades continue. But I couldn’t get going. I would sleep all day, I would browse the internet all night – I couldn’t get the motivation to get my work done. I started beating myself up about it, believing that I was a lazy failure. Turns out, it was just burn out. Once I allowed myself the opportunities to relax and just go with the flow, and have days where I choose what I want to do in each moment, and other days where I tell myself that I must dedicate a few hours to working, I was much better. Sure, I don’t get as much done as I did back in May, but I’m happy, and that’s the most important thing.

    Taking a relaxed ‘go with the flow’ attitude at times can really help. I’m a reader of ZenHabits, and follow Leo’s advice. I set myself a small list of tasks to do that day, and get them done, and then allow myself time to relax and do the things I enjoy. It’s a great feeling. Also, because I schedule in relaxation time, it makes me more eager to get up and do the gruelling tasks that otherwise would have been avoided.

    So slowing down and lowering your expectations of what you’ll get done can really help. I hope your advice helps yourself and others alike.

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