A New Definition of Competent

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What’s possible when you change your definition of competent?

I made a New Year’s commitment to have a different kind of year this year. I wanted more rest, play, and lighthearted times. I have a long history of over-functioning and pushing myself beyond my physical limits. Not only was I running on empty. I was running on fumes trying to run my business, finish Organizer Coach certification, coordinate care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in assisted living, oversee my disabled brother’s care in Connecticut, maintain a good marriage, and manage our household. I knew if I didn’t make some real changes I would eventually pay a hefty price with my health. 

When I began making changes, like avoiding my computer until after I had walked my dogs and had quiet time with a cup of coffee and reading from books that feed my heart, soul and brain, I felt wonderful. And, I also felt uncomfortable. Fortunately I’m working with Diane Thomson, a great coach, so I had the support I needed to work through my discomfort. Following is what I wrote her as I was trying to make sense of my experience of slowing down.

“After our session I did some thinking about my blahs today. It occurred to me that perhaps part of the blah feeling is because I’m not running on adrenalin constantly. I’m not getting high from urgency every day. What I’m feeling might really feel OK to a ‘normal’ person who is not a compulsive doer. This feeling of going slower and more deliberately, instead of at warp speed to get as much done as possible, trying to jam way too much into the time available, feels unfamiliar. I think I may be equating unfamiliar with wrong, problematic, and bad.

I also thought that it would be a good idea to re-write MY definition of competent. My old unconscious definition was something like ‘be reliable and do high quality work for as much time as possible during a day or until you drop dead or get sick.’ Yes, I had been living by that unconscious recipe for disaster for many decades. 

The notion of self-care was completely missing from my original definition of competent. But, with current awareness, facilitated by coaching, I realize I’m not being competent when I get tons done at the expense of my health, rest, relaxation, and quality relationships. Competent can be doing high quality work in amounts of time that still allow me to stop, breathe, rest, enjoy life, have fun and build/maintain quality relationships.”

With my new definition of competent I’m moving into each day deliberately making space for me and my needs. I am getting more rest, having more fun, stopping before I’m exhausted, enjoying a deeper connection with my husband, and still being productive. In fact, these days when I work I am able to focus more quickly and easily, and I get a lot done in less time. Who knew that taking care of myself could improve my efficiency!

Yes, I still feel twinges of discomfort because I’m not driving myself as I once would have. I notice those feelings and remind myself that change is hard, but that my choice is right. I believe getting off the fast track and onto the right track, a track that is respectful of me and my needs, is the only way to be able to make the biggest difference in this lifetime and drink in all the blessings and gifts this life has to offer.  

What is your definition of competent?