One of the most difficult trials of my life was in figuring out how to work well. By that, I mean learning how to do the work I loved as best as I was able, and in a way that played to my strengths. I grew up severely ADHD in a world that was still a couple of decades away from widely recognizing how to help people like me to learn, which meant that it was absolutely necessary for me to figure out how I personally worked best.
Which is why it interests me so much that according to one world-class athletic coach, there is one question that determines an athlete’s long-term success, or lack thereof. That question: do you take credit for your achievements?
Of course, I would say that it is always best to give the end results up to God, but from a non-spiritual perspective, it must seem like a strange question. If everyone is responsible for their own actions, why wouldn’t you take credit for whatever good you manage to achieve? To be frank, this is one area where I cannot really step outside of my spiritual beliefs. However, I will do what I can to defend them from a psychological perspective.
In my career, I’ve counseled a number of very famous and financially successful people, and one thing that almost all of them had in common was anxiety about maintaining that success. Musical artists agonize over whether their next album will be popular, or whether their voice will remain strong. Athletes agonize over their next tournament or injuries. It’s a constant struggle for them—but my repeated experience has been that the common factor among the few who are able to stay consistently in balance is that they give up the end results. They are content to simply do the best work they can and let come what may, and they almost always think of themselves as blessed or just plain lucky to be where they are in the first place.
I’ve found over and over that these sorts of people are usually able to perform more consistently and for much longer periods of time than those who constantly obsess over being “the best.” Take my eldest son, Harry, as an example (I got his permission for this). He’s a wonderful writer, and he’s been working on a novel for years now. Unfortunately, he’s also a perfectionist, and for a long time, he was so scared of getting it “wrong” that he could hardly write at all. Effectively, he was measuring himself against an imaginary, “perfect” novel and holding himself personally responsible for anything that fell short of it. Another example of the image-maker running away with bad assumptions.
So what’s the takeaway? That life, work, and art are more… well, art than science. What I mean is that it is supposed to be a continual process of practice, testing, mistakes, and improvement. Not an exam where the only outcomes are pass or fail. When you take ownership of the process, rather than the outcome, not only will you tend to have a happier and healthier work life, but you’ll also see better results in the long run.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!
Dr. Alex Loyd