What's next? The annual (anti)climax for big achievers and what to do about planning for success

Dec 30, 2019

This article is about how to move out of living or working in survival mode and how to start living with purpose, intent, and genuine excitement!

Well, well, well. Here we are again! That awkward time of year when we don't really know what day it is, what time it is, whether the gym is open, or if we even like our family anymore.

Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again.

And, in a moment of stillness (perhaps stolen from a gaze into a crackling winter fireplace or the red hot coals of a sizzling summer barbecue), you can't help but think there's something more productive that you could be doing right now. You recall that this is supposed to be the perfect time to reflect on the year gone, as well as plan the year ahead. "And it's not just any year to plan", you've heard them say. "It's an entire decade. We're starting a brand new decade."

Yikes. You're probably not 100% sure about your plans yet, are you?

So, as you start to ponder the year to come, your eyes softly glaze over. And then... "Hang on-" says brain. "We've been lucky to make it to December with only one major argument, two breakdowns, and successfully keeping this mouth firmly shut around those three crazy in-laws. We're pooped! We just don't have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with planning much into the year ahead, let alone an entire decade! Plan the next decade, hah. You're kidding, right?" [Cue near hysterical laughter].

And... no one is wrong here. It has been a big year. Of course you're tired! I'm tired. Many of us were brought down to our hands and knees - more than once. At first, we were mixing it up with some walking, jogging, and running. And then without much notice, we found ourselves tripping, crawling, rolling... away from discomfort, peers, politicians, and generally aggravating people, in the hope that we're making our way towards something that will eventually make us feel better. Towards something that actually feels good. Towards something that helps us to feel more... liberated. Free. Wingspread worthy.

So, what happens after the whole rolling away episode? Well, when we're back on our feet, we bring our guard up and we're standing there, wide-eyed, frantically thinking on the spot while relaxing our facial expressions to suggest that we're cool, calm, and collected. Trying to tick the "is creative" and "is a team player" and "is an inspirational manager" boxes while not spilling our lunch or tears. We're taking educated guesses. Making quick decisions. And it all happens so quickly!

Ahoy, I see you!

You're an achiever and successful in your own right. What you've learned and who you've sought out and spent time with, up until this point, has got you precisely where you are now and it's something to most certainly be proud of. You've personally invested in and built something worth fighting for.

What's more, people look up to you - and more than you might expect they do. Your friends and loved ones value your input. You are important. So, if you were to take your hands off that wheel you've been holding and reach over to repeat the song - yes - things might just start to fishtail and crash and burn up in a tumbling fireball of extremely hot, angry flames. "So", you reason, "Things have been going relatively well so far. Why rock the boat? If it's not broken, don't fix it." And maybe, things might just be a little (or a lot) broken, but sticking with them anyway and rolling along seems better than taking a risk or doing something differently.

Let alone daring to think a little differently.

"Oh, don't do that..." says brain. "Minimise the risk. Maximise our control. This is a safe place for us. Let's keep it same-same-no-different. Stick with what we know. Stay in our lane. Things will change when they're meant to."

And so, as you continue to reflect on recent events, what you've been through, and what you've managed to create, you're quite chuffed to realise that you do have a plan for the coming year, after all! Rinse, repeat, and add more fun and holiday time where possible. "Gosh. I'm actually a secret superstar." And that you are. [Cue cute smirk]. It takes a real fighter, cross-trained with Formula 1 driver, to roll with the punches, drive forward, and survive this modern, ultra-connected, super competitive way of living.

But, there's something not quite right with this picture.

I have a problem with survival. And this is why I'm writing to you.

When we're in survival mode, we operate with limited visibility. We don't have much clarity. Non-scientifically, it's like being a racehorse with blinkers on - you're focused on your race lane and getting to the finish line first. Your heart is pounding and you're being whipped by a small person riding on your back - you don't even like this person that much, yet you can't seem to shake them off. You can hear people screaming that they're paying good money for you and they've given you a chance, so you'd better not let them down, or else you're a goner... another disappointment... replaced. Their breath smells a little, too.

With the blinkers on, you're not able to use your peripheral vision to see who or what else is around, or whether you're even running in the right race! But as soon as your peers start running... heck, you start running, too!

So, where are you running to? Who are you running from? Why are you running, again?

Wait... WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON'T COME FIRST?

No, I'm not yelling at you.

You're just in the fight or flight response mode, and this is my problem with living in survival.

Your sympathetic nervous system has been activated by a stressful situation, which stimulates your adrenal glands and the release of catecholamines (including adrenaline), which does exactly what it seems to say it does at first glance, 'catecholamines' a.k.a. 'catech' a.k.a. 'create catastrophe' within your body - particularly when this survival response is being constantly triggered by the shot of the race gun, email ding, client's grating voice, colleague's annoying face, or phone screen lighting up with "14 missed calls from mum". And not, mind you, triggered by a genuine cause for alarm and adrenaline - a.k.a. smelling smoke in a bookshop or getting whiffs of your ex's perfume each time go step out to get coffee.

It's no wonder we're exhausted. Survival mode is taxing! We should be patting ourselves on the back and not be feeling bad about the online shopping we just did. We have much to celebrate! In fact, I'm totally into celebration and had an epiphany about it when I was in Arizona recently - I think we don't celebrate enough and it creates all sorts of issues, but I'll save that chat for another time.

Back to my gripe with survival mode...

What if I told you that there was a better way to live? That your life could be more about thriving than it is about surviving. Is this something you would be open to considering? Or perhaps you've been thinking about making some interesting changes for a while now, but aren't too sure about how to go about it or whether it's the right thing to do? Or maybe you love change and making waves in your life, but perhaps you would like to make more meaningful and consistent change?

Let's think about what living better and more consistently - thriving - might be like. I promise it won't hurt.

When you switch from surviving to thriving, you have a clear vision for your life and for your craft - you move with purpose. You have vibrant energy and you carry yourself with an inner confidence and outer gravitas that is brow-raisingly magnetic. You are very influential, extremely productive, and have time for what and who you want. You are more successful than you've ever been and have arrived at that place in a shorter amount of time than you expected!

Less with the struggling and striving - more with the arriving and thriving (and I can't help but do a little rhyme from time to time).

And we're not just talking about super humans like Oprah. There are thousands of people (potentially even a colleague or next-door neighbour of yours) who have figured out how to break out of survival and be a true high performer across every facet of their lives. They know how to switch from surviving to thriving very quickly. Often, they're changing one or two facets of their lives at a time, but they recognised the signs, have figured out their plan, and they're working on themselves. You might not see the work being done - they just appear to have their lives so well put together (and I can tell you that this is no accident!).

They have more meaningful relationships. People just seem to want to help them (which can be a bit annoying sometimes). They inspire others without even realising it. They have incredible amounts of energy and hit the gym or pavement daily, eat and drink enough of the good stuff, and are fully present in every conversation they choose to be in. They know that every day, they are living on purpose, with intent, and genuine excitement for what they've organised in their daily planners (as well as for any plot twist that might give them an opportunity for a success even greater than they'd originally imagined). Yes! And when it comes to the evening, they rest with ease. They experience peace and are comforted by the strong belief in their ability to figure things out, no matter what might surface. What's more, they're also pretty darn fun to be around! [Cue winky face].

Note. If simply pondering this possibility for a life well lived doesn't give you that rollercoaster tickle in your lower tummy, or a little pang of "I want that!" - that's cool - the high performance lifestyle isn't for everyone. And that's okay, too! But if you are even just a little bit interested in bucking that jockey once and for all, running a different race altogether, or orchestrating your very own racing carnival - read on!

But first, let's get some things straight. I don't like making assumptions, but we've only got a small space here and still need to get through some life planning, so here goes... Chances are, you are blessed beyond belief. Let's acknowledge this. You have at least one income stream. You know people who care about you. You have somewhere to call home, some clean clothes, shoes that fit and (hopefully) clean sheets on your bed. You have finished some level of education and have the choice to study further, if you so wished. There's food in the pantry and drinks in the fridge. Simply - you have options in life.

If we know each other personally, you're probably not too surprised that I share this message so dramatically. My university nickname was 'Tangent' for very good reason. I go off on tangents. Like now - in one paragraph, we're high-fiving your life. In the next, you find yourself wading knee deep through thick lines, wearing inappropriate footwear, and in a turn of phrase have begun experiencing some discomfort between the toes... which feels like it might be spreading up the legs. It is. Something even tickled your backside a bit, but you aren't sure where it came from (because you've been wearing your blinkers again, haven't you?). And now you're wishing you weren't too curious about what I had to write.

Yet, here we are. And the desire for more fullness in life is 100% contagious!

Or, maybe you're thinking, "Tanya, cut to the chase. I'm a big wig and want to do more. I'm ready to upgrade again... I want to serve bigger and better than I ever have before. For me, my loved ones, and the community." You're a big achiever and ready for more in your life! And you want to maintain the impressive success you've created. I get you.

Maybe you know you want something totally brand new. You feel a burning desire to open yourself up to new levels of self-awareness and business potential. Maybe you just fist-pumped the air a little to keep me going with the good vibes, curious to see if something else strikes an angelic chord within you. [I feel you, and I'm whizzing good vibes straight back to you while strumming a harp, my friend].

As for my experience - it's not that I'm negative, too idealistic, or plain unrealistic.

Simply... I want the best. And I don't settle. I want the best experience of life for people, because I'm an overly caring and curious person who works and studies and coaches professionals and entrepreneurs to high performance living.

I'm your cheerleader. Confidante. Great supporter. I want you to be happy. We're a rare breed, but we do exist. [Cue shout out to my fellow CHPC's, you know who you are!]

This is my purpose.

I know that when you are living with purpose and intentionality, you're not only happier and more confident, but you hit our goals, see results faster, and experience excellent unforeseen outcomes - like new people coming into your life so that together, you are able to enjoy deeper relationships, extra energy for extra-curricular activities and a prolonged sense of peace, because you believe in your ability to figure things out! You're good! You know yourself, what you want, and understand how you want to engage with others. What's more, you're playing out your vision for who you want to become (because you're always evolving). And it feels so good.

What's more, this isn't just my experience, but a way of living that countless years of scientific exploration into human behaviour and what makes people tick by thousands of smart people who have devoted their lives to that research and testing, and have proven it over and over, time and time again. [I should have warned you to take a deep breath for that sentence.] I told you that this wasn't a science-y article.

Note. If you've been living under a rock and have barely dipped a toe in your own personal and professional development, InMail me asking for some high performance resources and I'll get you started. Time is ticking! But it's never too late.

Here's what we know about planning your life in alignment with who you are and what you truly desire:

You think clearly. You direct your mind and actions with certainty and purpose. You feel on purpose and intentional. You make our own luck and start a luck production company on the side (and welcome the good fortune you also hadn't planned for) - and it's really fun!

You experience more love. Who doesn't want more love in their life?! And don't say Darth Vader, because even he wanted Luke's attention when he rattled through his last few raspy breaths. Turns out, he was all about the love!

You're able to control yourself and not fly off the handle when you feel disrespected by peers or family, or attacked by friends. Remember that message you sent when you were angry and wished you could take back? Yes, I went there. You're not a bad person, you just had a bad moment, but we don't have to do that anymore.

You have more energy. You're vibrant! You have laser focus for the task at hand, whether it's a big meeting, one-on-one coffee or playing a game of tag with your loved one in the yard. And you know that what you're focused on is related directly to your life plan and vision for yourself. You're present, and your full attention makes other people feel good and perform even better for you.

You have frequent and uncontrollable bouts of child-like joy, bursting from your seams like a pleasantly plump teddy bear. Sometimes you even smile for no apparent reason, and suddenly everyone is hungry for your menu and is clicking to order exactly what you're having!

You enjoy a deep, deep peacefulness, worthy of a long and audible sigh, washing over every cell in your body and nourishing your deepest depths. And if you close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath, you can hear waves lapping at the shore. Now, feel that inside. Mmmm... delicious, isn't it?

That's right - we feel good!

And what do we do with this goodness?

Well, this is where it starts to get interesting: we pass all this goodness onto others through every interaction we have, be it with our colleagues, friends, loved ones, and even strangers we encounter - when chatting, emailing, calling, messaging, or even direct eye contact with someone you bump into on government transport.

Our self-talk even becomes nicer and it feels good to be you. You walk taller. Your eyes light up. Things that were once difficult, have become easy. Tricky situations aren't so tricky anymore. You're less affected by things and are more effective on every level. You're able to release your grip, learn the lesson, and free yourself to move onto the next level of life - and this is when you truly begin to thrive!

Let's get started. The rest of the article will take you through an approach to figuring out your plan for the coming year. And if you take it super seriously, you might have the beginnings of an outline for the decade... It's up to you. Use it how you want to. I don't waste much time on the surface and like to get on the cellular level, because that's where the change happens, so yes, the questions can duck dive deep.

The exercise below will be meaningful to you and will likely start a shift. I might as well tell you that now. There will be movement, but don't get triggered! It will just show you where you can concentrate some attention and effort in the year(s) to come. We're blessed to be in this position right now. Look at us... just look at us considering how we could design a lifestyle that allows us to thrive. This is exciting.

What's more, the likes of Oprah, Ariana Huffington, and many c-suite executives from Fortune500 companies have answered the same questions when they've been coached by a Certified High Performance Coach (via the High Performance Institute, through which I'm a certified coach), so you'll be in good company. If you want the full introduction and other questions, just ask me and I'll send it through to you. Easy.

So, by doing this exercise, you'll begin to refocus your life and take back your agenda from all the triggers and distractions. Bye bye, surviving. Hello, thriving. [Cue closing the door to your office or snuggling into the sofa with a hot mug of something and the exercise]. It's exciting stuff! Go on, crack open a little. Enjoy yourself while you do it.

Your planning exercise:

  1. What do you do for a living, and why did you choose that career / business?
  2. What are your top three goals that you're striving to achieve right now?
  3. What major stressors or challenges are you struggling with right now?
  4. What would your dream life look like if you could wave a wand a make it happen?
  5. What else has prevented you from having that dream life?
  6. What three big changes would you like to make in your life in the next 12 months?
  7. What negative recurring thoughts, fears, or behaviours would you like to overcome in order to feel more mentally free, confident, and successful?
  8. What eating, exercise, or general health habits would you like to begin - or break - in order to feel stronger and more physically healthy?
  9. What distracts you from being more productive, and what major projects or missions are you struggling to complete faster or more efficiently?
  10. If you were more persuasive or influential, what dream or desire would you ask others to support you in achieving?
  11. When do you struggle or be fully present in your day or in any of your relationships?
  12. How purposeful do you feel in living each day, and how would you describe your purpose?

Get specific. Are you answers specific enough? Do you want a loving relationship? Say it! Another income stream? Claim it! A new home? A promotion? Free time? Time with the kids? A new job? A complete career change? A brand-new kitchen? A three-week holiday? To start a business? A best friend? Repair a relationship with a loved one? A better relationship with... yourself?

Note. No wrong answers here. It can be difficult to think about what you truly want, because chances are that for a long time, you've been told what to do, or have been doing what you're doing for many years now and you've been operating on auto pilot and you can't remember what you wanted before the weekly routine, second kid, and / or third vino. No judgement!

Be kind a gentle with yourself. Just don't talk yourself out of doing it. Remember, if you want a writable PDF version of the questionsjust ask me and I'll send it to you. That way, you can take create a pocket of peace for yourself and finally get some clarity about what you want for the next year, few years, or decade.

Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping.

When you're done, sit back and take a moment to read what you just wrote. Celebrate all of it - it has shaped who you are today. When you're ready, prioritise your actions and schedule them into your calendar. Immediately.

Make of list of the unknowns and connect dots with who or what will be able to help demystify your next moves.

Invite someone who might be able to help you to chat over coffee. Or a champagne. Remember, we celebrate around here.

Call the person you care about. Tell them how you feel, without expecting anything in return.

Enjoy being present in your life. Recognise yourself. Set a daily agenda that is in alignment with who you are, what you want, and how you want to show up in this lifetime.

So, for now - party, be merry, and then get down to business.

May you experience your best year, yet!

Tanya x

Recommended resources:

You didn't think I'd leave you in the lurch, did you?!

Daily planner:

The High Performance Planner - be guided through planning your day. This is the best daily planner I've ever used. Complete with morning, hourly, and evening planning - and more - visible across two pages so that you don't have to flip and flick for during the day.

Books:

Exactly as each title describes - select the one(s) that jump out to you or resonate more strongly with you. And then buckle up, because your jet will be ready for take-off!

 

Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping. And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains.
-Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

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