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Editor’s Note: Last year, I gave a free webinar on core values for my subscribers. One person who took me up on that offer was Wallace Montgomery.

Brave enough to allow the group to give a critique, I gave him some free coaching afterwards to refine the values he came up with. To my surprise, on his third draft, he listed Overachieving as one of his core values. I asked him to share his thinking behind this decision, and how he came to see overachieving as such a valuable part of his personality. I thought his answer was particularly insightful and I share it with you below.

For an overachiever, there are few better environments than grade school.

While I don’t miss sitting in a classroom all day, I do yearn for a time when concrete goals were laid in front of me – and the surest way to accomplish them was hard work. It was an all-you-can eat buffet, and studying to get straight A’s was just the first helping. You were encouraged to load your plate with after-school activities. And the more you could consume, the more impressed everyone appeared to be.

Needless to say, the post-college world shocked me.

Among the countless lessons learned over the years: hard work in and of itself doesn’t guarantee anything. To truly get better at something worthwhile, you generally have to fail at it again and again (after a lifetime of living in fear of the F!). And being an overachiever can be a serious liability – mostly because it’s a hard thing to shut off.

All my life I’d sprinted, unrelentingly, mercilessly, towards a goal. I would achieve it and keep going, barely slowing down, on to the next. That worked just fine in school, even in some jobs, but not so well in longer-term pursuits like changing careers.

My career change has been a long, exciting, frightening, unpredictable journey.

And as an overachiever, it’s been, at times, crushing. At the end of each day, what have I done? Some thinking? Self-reflection? Research? That’s not enough!

I started riding myself hard. I wanted results, and I knew they weren’t coming any time soon. The criticism became so frequent and harsh it endangered my ability to achieve anything.

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Towards the end of my previous career I became a master at work-life balance.

Having a baby made it easier. I told my boss I had to pick my daughter up from daycare at 5:30 PM everyday because they charge you extra by the minute after that. So he let me go.

But even before my daughter was born, I stopped taking work home. I might check email once or twice, but other than that I spent time with my husband, read books, and wrote poems.

Did I get behind on work? Sure I did.

That’s how I came to the startling realization that most deadlines are arbitrary–a truth I doubt is unique to government work.

If you don’t turn something in by the deadline, half the time no one ever asks you for it. I started making a habit of forcing people ask for things twice, unless it was obviously important or interesting, just to be sure it was work that needed to be done.

This was living the dream of the TGIF lifestyle.

And you know what? It sucked.

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A couple of weeks ago, I got caught telling a whopper set of lies.

I was waiting for my daughter to get out of school, when another mum asked, “How are you doing?”

“Good,” I said breathlessly, “but crazy busy!”

(Lie #1: I certainly was busy, but I was not well at all.  My back pain had returned in spades and the stress was so bad I’d started getting recurrent cold sores in my mouth.)

“I’ve got a launch coming up, I created a new product, and I’m wrapping up the book chapter I’ve been writing on contract.  And of course the hubby’s been out of town a lot, so doing most of the child care. But,” I sighed, “I just have to get through April and things will slow down.”

My friend cocked her head and asked, “Haven’t you been saying that since October?”

Lie #2, that I thought everything would “slow down next month,” was the worst of all, because at least part of me believed it.  Indeed, I’d been engaged in a vocational sprint for more than six months, where the finish line always remained just a few steps ahead of me.

In my last update on my no goals experiment, I shared 3 strategies for de-cluttering your commitments. I’m here to say I tried juggling and failed.  It was a good experiment, but at least for me, I couldn’t make it work.

I decided the only real solution was to remove all work commitments and start completely over.

For many of my clients, the thought of starting over is one of their biggest fears.  There were certainly days I just wanted to curl up and hide in my room.  I was so stressed about the how: how to break ties without burning bridges, how to throttle back without losing momentum, and how to focus on the work I love without burning out.

In this post, I’ll show you how I’m addressing all three of those concerns and how you might do the same.