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My big, grand stretch goal for this year

Something you may not know about me is that I organize, plan, and manage a majority of my life on sticky notes.

Work tasks. Quotes for my book. Grocery lists. Reminders. Love notes that go inside lunch boxes.

I should probably make up a word that describes the distinct pleasure of crumpling — in one exuberant sweep — a sticky note with all its line items crossed out and done. Crumplecrunch! Into the trash it goes.

I have been joking lately — but it’s honestly not a joke, it’s real — that I even do my vision boards on sticky notes.

That’s right, I don’t do those colorful ones on an oversized poster-board with pithy wisdom words pasted alongside gorgeous visuals of what’s to come. I scrawl it all on a 2” scrap of paper.

And so, my vision board sticky note for last year and this year to come, stuck on the wall beside my fridge, says two words, all caps, in plain black ink:

That’s it. That’s my sticky note vision board. And it’s serving me well.

I’m not knocking creative multi-media visions for our futures. I say, whatever it is that has you feel viscerally connected to what you want more of and less of in your life, great.

But last fall, about 6 months ago, something happened.

After over four decades of rushing from school to dance class to rehearsal to homework … of taking as many advanced placement classes as I could … of never receiving below an A and being named valedictorian of my high school class … of applying to not one but ten upper-crust colleges and getting in to all of them … of cramming my schedule full and feeling morally superior because of how busy I was … of packing my backpack in the morning for an early audition, then a temp job, then a friend’s birthday dinner at a swanky swim-up bar in the middle of midtown, and then a bartending shift til 4am … of  juggling poorly paid (or unpaid) passion work with better paid (barely) drudgery work … of immersing myself in all the personal growth seminars and workshops available … of trying to keep up with French and Italian by studying on my train commute when no longer living in France or Italy … of constantly looking for ways to work harderlongerfasterbetter and more efficiently … of constantly looking for ways to BE betterbetterbetter … and then of two summers in a row of getting very sick with vestibular migraines, insomnia, and crippling fatigue …

I realized I had a new goal, a new vision for myself and my life.

And that massively grand life-plan could only fit on a plain ol’ Post-It:

Yes, my friend. My newest stretch goal, my newest new year’s resolution, my newest bright shiny sparkly vision for my life is to underachieve.

And can I tell you that Every Single Person I share this with — because they are usually a highly-sensitive, driven, perfectionist, excellent, creative, burned out, spirituallymentallyemotionallyphysically exhausted woman like myself — gets the most wonderful gleam in their eye.

I say that one word — underachieve — and they get it.

Holy shit, their eyes seem to say. I could do that. I could try less hard. Give less fucks. Put my feet up. Let the work be undone, or done until it’s good not perfect. Let my guard down. Take a beat. Rest. Trust.

Inevitably what they say, or their eyes say, next is that they have a sneaking suspicion that if they did some good solid underachieving for a nice stretch of time, that they’d still probably be pretty darn excellent. Because that’s just who they are, what brings them joy, what makes them tick.

But. What might drain out of their lifebodyheartmindsoul if they overachieve less and underachieve more is the hyper-vigilance of moreharderlongerbetter that has defined their entire lifetime like it has defined mine. The chronic, ravaging, self-esteem-chomping stress of constantly clocking the measuring stick and calculating how to surpass it by a mile.

Last fall, after getting sick again for the second summer in a row, I started to doubt my lifelong pattern of putting in extra now in order to be able to do less and enjoy more later: the ends justify the means, and all that.

I started to get lucid and ruthless with myself about the fact that putting in extra now has really never equaled being able to do less and enjoy more later, at least not for me. Putting in extra now, just means I’m always putting in extra now.

I realized I wanted to try a rash and wild experiment of putting in as little as possible now. To give my overachieving hyper-vigilant self that long-awaited rest — now, not later. And to cultivate an inner attitude of spaciousness and enoughness — now, not later.

To rest.

And to trust.

I have to trust that if I rest, I will still be able to feed myself and my kid, keep the lights on, have love, and save for retirement.

I had to look back over my decades of life and work and relationships and earning money and then tell myself the truth: that I’ve always had enough, that clients and opportunities always come, that I do good work, that I change lives for the better, that I am valued, that I am loved.

Yes, I’m still fairly busy. Yes, I still juggle a lot. And yes, I drop more balls than I used to. But not the big ones.

And can I tell you what it’s like when the inner jackhammering of self-reproach and never-enough-ness Just. Stops?

Can I tell you what it’s like when the light, airy grace of plenty flows through my day like the breath of the divine?

Can I tell you what it’s like when I feel blameless and beautiful in my skin, just as it is?

If you too would like to join in my grand goal of underachieving, I welcome and applaud you. It’s stunning here. And so far, there’s still food on the table.

All you need is a sticky note and some rash, wild willingness to jump off the cliff of moreharderlongerbetter.

I’ll see you there — now, not later.

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