I was sharpening the wrong axe

Lincoln In my pursuit to make the best of my time off work, I started working with an executive coach a couple of months ago. The goal is to “sharpen the axe” before I return to work, focussing on some specific skills but also to put myself in a better position to not give all of myself to my next job. By that I mean not working 24/7 and burning out. Big ask.

In a previous session, we’d completed an exercise to establish my personal values. They are achievement, autonomy, empowerment, health, integrity, respect, knowledge and commitment. See that first “A” word at the top of the list? Achievement. I’ve discovered, thanks to my coach, this is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means I have a high drive and motivation at work, and personally. But a curse because that drive can overwhelm everything else in my life. I must insert here that there is an upside and downside to every personal value.

My coach is amazing and I have already learned a lot from her. But this week she called me out on something which was quite a shock. She said I’m using my non-working time to be just as productive as when I’m working. And she’s right. I’m up at 5am three days a week. I’m at the gym 8 times a week and am pushing to better my deadlift PB of 90kg. Every day I’m cooking healthy food to eat immediately or to stash in the freezer. I have been reading non-fiction exclusively for at least three months, and I read with a pen in hand and taking copious notes. My reading backlog is significant. Last week I drove up to The Dandenongs to see an art installation, and did the Thousand Steps walk on the way back – a steep hike up 1.5k, and then back down again. I’ve led some work with the body corporate of my building to complete some repairs. The list goes on, but I think you get the point.

My new challenge is to be less productive. To be less driven to achieve things. I’ve got to be honest, it doesn’t sit well with me. This is an important lesson, though, because when I go back to work I need to have the ablity to stop, to switch off and just be. This will mitigate against burning out, but also mean I’m happier in the time that I’m not working.

Even though I have two new books being delivered today, I’ll be doing my very best to avoid reading them. My freezer is almost full, so there’s no need to stash food away. Today I will be doing my very best to achieve nothing. And that, in itself, will be a massive achievement.


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