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Finding Balance In Life: Achievement vs Enjoyment

simple life, slowing down, minimalism, living in the present moment, mindfulness, living intentionally, high functioning anxiety, type a personality, self worth

Finding balance between accomplishing things and enjoying the present moment can be a challenge. If you are a type A personality who is always doing, going, and achieving, it can be hard to slow down and enjoy exactly where you are. Yet it is also essential to a life well lived. In this post I share some of my struggles with perfectionism, and how I choose to approach this feeling of ‘not-enoughness’.


I am always trying to be amazing.

Every day I am trying to show up as the best version of myself. In my life, that looks like

  • being the most amazing mom who loves getting down on the floor and wrestling with the kids for three hours, is wildly imaginative, and can make an endless stream of crafts without getting fed up.
  • being the most amazing wife who always listens patiently and is ready for romance every single night without ever being too tired.
  • being the most amazing career woman who is 100% on, full of innovative ideas, never procrastinates anything, and always impresses the entire organization.
  • being the most amazing homemaker with a stew always simmering on the stove, not a single dog hair on the floor, and a perfectly decluttered and minimalist home that is ready to be featured in a magazine.
  • being the most amazing dog owner who always gives the doggo his 45 minute daily walk, a game of tug of war, 15 minutes of mental exercise, and a snuggle every night.
  • being the most amazing friend who has time for connecting over coffee every weekend, can text all day long, and always has the BEST words of encouragement or support when needed.
  • being an amazing daughter who is always there to lend a hand, wants to talk on the phone for hours, and thinks of the best birthday gifts.
  • and being the best me who regularly gets a weekend to herself, makes time in the evenings to do hobbies just for fun, is always in excellent shape and makes healthy food choices without fail, and is the most positive person to be around.

Getting that out in the open feels oddly liberating because now I can acknowledge the fact that those standards are impossible.

It is exhausting to try and be everything to everyone all of the time.

But if you grew up in a home similar to mine, those are exactly the goals you were taught to chase.

When I came home from school with a 98% on a math test, the first question I was met with was “what happened to the other 2%?” With the best of intentions and nothing but love, my parents taught me that my worth depended on what I could accomplish and how I measured up to some external standard.

I embraced this mindset as part of my identity and have carried it with me all throughout adulthood as if it was the only way.

Then, somewhere along the path the cracks started to show. I was seeing more success. more financial prosperity, and more status than everybody I knew, yet I was not the happiest…

  • I was making more money at age 21 than my parents were at age 50 yet I was miserable and had no social life.
  • I graduated early at the top of my university class with a 4.2 GPA while raising a baby yet I felt so conflicted, confused, and anxious about whether my life would turn out okay.
  • I was married, had 2 kids, a dog, a house with a white picket fence, and a fancy corporate career all by the time I was 22 yet I felt so empty inside.

I had reached all of the goals I was taught to achieve and didn’t know what was left.

Life became a cycle of showing up for everyone else and pushing through the emptiness I felt inside.

At first I thought this emptiness could be cured by accomplishing more things.

  • Getting the next raise to bump up our savings account.
  • Fostering neglected children to give back to the community.
  • Buying fancier furniture to measure up to our neighbors.

I thought buying more things and filling our calendars with back to back commitments could keep me busy enough that I wouldn’t have to deal with these immense feelings of incompleteness.

It didn’t work.

White space terrified me. A weekend with nothing planned gave me anxiety. A day that wasn’t scheduled out (down to the hour) made me nervous. An afternoon with the kids and no game plan made me panic.

To be honest, all of that stuff still makes me a little nervous. But I’m learning to let go of my Type A personality and embrace a slower, and more intentional pace of life.

I am on a journey to find the balance between accomplishing and enjoying the present moment.

I haven’t perfected it yet, but maybe there is no perfect balance, just what works for me right here right now.

I’ve started to leave most weekends unplanned and to trust that our family will have the space we need to connect and enjoy ourselves. I’ve focused my thoughts on being grateful for everything I have, and on quieting my mind. I’ve dismissed the ‘what ifs’ and embraced the ‘so whats. I started journaling, meditating, and reading books about simplicity.

But that won’t cure high functioning anxiety. I’m still setting a thousand goals for myself and feeling guilty when I’m not working toward them or seeing progress as quickly as I’d like. I’m still hard on myself and the people around me when we don’t measure up to the ideal standard I’ve been taught to conform to.

The thing is, I am human and I can’t undo a lifetime of perfectionism overnight. But I am slowly learning what brings me joy and what is just another box to check off my list. I am carefully practicing embracing failure and forgiving my poor decisions. I am diligently realizing that the world will always keep spinning and in the end the only thing that really matters is that I lived a happy life.

So these next few months I am focusing on planning a little less and laughing a little more; accomplishing a little less and enjoying a little more; neglecting a little less and indulging a little more.

Most of the articles I write for my community are about things I’ve already figured out how to do. How to set goals for the year, how to practice mindfulness, how to do this and how to achieve that. This one isn’t like that.

I wish I had an answer for you on how you could strike the perfect balance between accomplishing your goals and enjoying your life, but I think it’s more complicated than that.

I think it depends on the person and it is a continual process of discovering what works for you and what doesn’t. I think you’ll get there if you take the time to reflect each week on how you felt and make little shifts every day to feel a little bit better.

I think you can make a lot of progress in a year if you focus on finding more balance each and every day. And I think it’s okay to be out of balance… there is no shame in working too much, or in relaxing too much. We all go through different seasons in life, and once you realize your season is no longer working for you, you can switch it up.

The things that I find help me rumble with these feelings of not-enoughness and the overwhelm that comes with a life that’s out of balance are:

  • talking about it with someone I trust – getting a different perspective on things can help shake me out of a funk of negative thought spirals
  • getting out in nature – a 30 minute walk in the woods reminds me that I am just a little person in this great big world and helps bring my first world problems into perspective in a calming sort of way
  • journaling for a long time – it can take me 1 to 2 hours to get it all out on paper, but I find it helps to make my jumble of thoughts more tangible so that I can work through them one by one
  • reading a book that focuses on simple, intentional living – Brene Brown always recenters me on what matters
  • meditating for a long time – at least 15 minutes to calm the mind chatter and remember how to instill calmness with the breath

If you’re struggling with anxiety around being and doing all the things, sit with those feelings for a while instead of trying to accomplish them away.

We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. It takes away the magic of life.

ANA MCRAE

I’ve been coaching people on overcoming perfectionism and chasing the dreams they actually care about, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m just finding my way and sharing what works.

I hope you’ve found a little bit of relief in this article and that you walk away giving yourself a lot of grace and time to find what works for you.

In the end, just look for the things that make you smile a little bit more, and head that way.

You’ll turn out great.


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How do you remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the moment? Let me know in the comments below!

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