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Why High Achieving People Resist Resting

Lion Resting

Our thoughts are sneaky little buggers. They’re so good at telling their delicious little lies that play to our ego’s weaknesses. Disguised as protective capes whispering, “I’m helping you. I’m just looking out for your best interest. You need me.”

I’ll be the first to admit that, even as a coach, I have not quite broken my tendency to over-effort and fill all my time with doing. I’m a work in progress and have come quite a long way since my corporate workaholic days. I do know that the more limiting beliefs I dissolve and the more I rewire my brain with antidote thoughts, the closer I get to breaking this habit.

Constantly working is not sustainable mentally or physically. At some point, I know that my body will revolt with a sharp and painful lesson. And frankly, resting feels so…damn…good…if we can give ourselves permission to lean into it.

So why do we resist resting when we know it’s good for us? Why do we push ourselves to breaking?

For me (and many of my clients), there is a whole collection of limiting beliefs tied to our sense of personal value. Each one dressed up as a motivational speech on how to be the best you can be. Some of the most common include:

  • I am not enough unless I…
  • I must do more.
  • I’ll look lazy.
  • Resting (or playing) is wasting precious time.
  • I have to get ahead.
  • Successful people work harder than everyone else.
  • If I stop or slow down, I will lose (my job, income, others’ respect, reputation, motivation…)

These all sound enticingly convincing; tell me where I’m wrong.

I’ve worked each one of these thoughts and yet, just last week, I found myself resisting leaning into a natural lull in my business projects. I have a book that is in my designer’s hands and an online course offering that is going through a beta test. Both are going to take the time it will take. When these necessary steps are done, I will be spending a great deal of effort launching these products.

Yet, I felt myself become agitated and look for another project to start. When I couldn’t immediately think of something business-related to do, I turned to house projects. When I hit hiccups with that, I became extremely irritated and impatient. These emotions are red flags for thought work, so I asked myself why.

I went back through the above bulleted familiar tunes and none seemed to hit the mark. They weren’t specific enough and thus why I hadn’t completely dissolved the root belief. And then I realized, the real problem with my allowing a natural lull was the thought: “Not doing is wasting my potential.”

There it was. I hit gold. My potential: all this future opportunity that could be mine if only I did more and pushed harder.

I worked the thought. (And if you’re not already familiar with Byron Katie’s The Work ™, I highly recommend you visit her site. Life changing.) I’ll share my turnarounds with you in case this thought sparks a flicker of familiarity:

Opposite Thought: “Not doing is burgeoning my potential.”
Supporting Proof:

  1. Rest is a natural part of our living cycles.
  2. “Not doing” allows my subconscious to work its magic and creativity.
  3. Recharging allows me to work at my highest potential when it comes time to work.
  4. Not doing it all myself allows experts to take over and do their thing, which allows the potential of my project to be more and go farther.

Additional Opposite Thought: “Doing is wasting my potential.”
Supporting Proof:

  1. Doing for the sake of doing is wasting the energy I need to create when it’s time to create.
  2. Spinning on useless things wastes my mental capacity, which is my potential.
  3. My potential is best utilized when it has space to formulate creative ideas.
  4. Constantly doing and going makes my body break down (headaches, back aches, etc.) and if I’m sick or in pain, I am definitely not creating.

Thought turned to Other: “My potential is wasting not doing.”
Supporting Proof:

  1. My potential is my creative process that is internal and I am wasting that opportunity by busying myself with external doing.
  2. Might as well take advantage of the space to do things I enjoy, which is one of the many benefits of self-employment.
  3. I can use “not doing” to my advantage with creative play that fills my heart. Some of my best ideas come as a result of play and rest.

Thought turned to Self: “My thoughts are wasting my potential.”
Supporting Proof:

  1. Spinning in my mind is a complete waste of me and the present moment and my creative, problem-solving potential.
  2. When I believe my painful thoughts, I am unnecessarily wasting my potential.
  3. Self-criticism is never motivational.

So what did I do with these newfound thoughts that are so much truer than the original? Well, you may notice that this blog is coming out a week later than usual. Rather than working, I took long walks at the beach with my dog and sketched a bunch of art with a new set of colored pencils. I post-processed some photos as a form of creative play. I revived my yoga routine and gave myself permission to take afternoon naps. I started reading a new book that a friend gave me. Essentially, I played and rested in the ways that feel good to me.

If you find yourself resisting resting into a natural lull in projects, I invite you to locate the driving belief behind that resistance and do The Work. If you want me to walk you through it, let’s schedule a coaching session.