Self-Care and A New Definition of Competent

This post will make the most sense to those of you who never seem to be able to slow down newspaper-300x248and stop doing tasks to have a life of your own. That has become the norm for many of us these days. Instead of technology facilitating better time management and helping to increase leisure time, the exact opposite seems to have happened. We now can be accessed at any time of the day, and have more on our plates than ever before. There are so many possibilities out there. Our expectations of ourselves and our performance has never been higher and more unrealistic.

This year I made a New Year’s commitment to have a different kind of year from the overly busy, stressful years of the past. 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 weekday mornings until after I had walked my dogs, had quiet time with a cup of coffee and reading books that feed my heart, soul and brain for 15 to 30 minutes, 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. Together we discovered that what was driving my compulsive doing was my value of competence and my need to do all I could to feel competent in every area of my life.

Following is what I wrote Diane as I was trying to make sense of my discomfort with 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 now 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.”

As a result of that awareness, I 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.

I was able to identify that the notion of self-care was completely missing from my original definition of competent. But, with new awareness, facilitated by coaching, I realized that I’m not being competent when I am being super productive at the expense of my health, rest, relaxation, and quality relationships. So, here is my new definition of competent. Competent is doing high quality work in amounts of time that also 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, enjoying a deeper connection with my husband, and still being productive. In fact, when I work I am able to focus and get a more 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 it 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.