Too Much is Not Enough: Escaping Impossible Standards

Nadja Verena Marcin, Covergirls (magazine), 2017, Four magazines of 6-8 pages, inkjet prints, mixed media, 11.5 x 8.75, Edition 1/5 + 1 AP (sold as series of four)

My first anxiety attack was three months after I opened the Pregame Clubhouse.

Not the first anxiety attack of my life – far from it. That had been in 2002, the summer I took on roles in four different plays (rehearsing in different boroughs, not always at different times) while still working full time at a mutual fund in Manhattan. I was going to grow my artistic resume even if it killed me.

And that wasn’t my first attack of professional FOMO. No, that was exemplified by the additional page attached to my college applications to outline the extraextracurriculars that surely made me a better candidate. I was going to get into the right college even if it killed me.

Piling up quantity of achievements rather than quality of experiences was a logic error that became a bad habit. A habit that has been extremely hard to break.

So when I had my first startup-related anxiety onset in October 2016, it took awhile to release. In fact, it took a year. Granted, there were other anxiety-provoking circumstances: the 2016 election, business-disrupting weather, physical ailments without the possibility of sick days, the 2017 news cycle. But none of these were sufficient to take preventive measures, and by fall of 2017, I reached full burnout.

Now I had a new #1 goal: diffusing anxiety and learning how to manage stress. I wasn’t 23 anymore, so pushing to “I’ll do it even if it kills me!” loses its hyperbole as stress in middle age can lead straight to actual physical and chronic conditions.

Yes, I knew how I was supposed to handle it: change the goals. Rework the numbers. Reduce stress. Seek support. Increase self-care. Delegate tasks.

Easier said than done.

Even though I recognized the source of my stress, I wasn’t able to immediately break from it. Some of us have to reach an absurd level of pain before we’re willing to try the cure.

Even though I finally hit that point and diligently began to take daily action to change course, after weeks of meditating and sleeping and confiding and hiring and reinventing the business, the morning after the last business day of the year, I laid on my living room floor feeling like a complete failure. The numbers were in and the results were black and white: I hadn’t achieved my 2017 goals. Me! The mayoress of goals! How would I be able to stand in front of everyone at the 2018 Goal Brunch events and, with integrity, tell them how to achieve their goals for the year when I hadn’t even reached my own?

I spent the weekend wondering how I would tell the truth and still motivate my team.

The answers came, ironically, with the New Year issue of Pregame Magazine.

Yvette reminded me that satisfaction with my circumstances is, to some degree, my choice. Uma reminded me that the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Amy reminded me that goals are not just about the process but about who I would become. Our artists reminded me that creation can impact community. And I reminded myself that the capital-G Goal is the journey, not just the destination.

In the past month, it has become clear that my motivation for evolving Pregame is evolving myself. It has been an incredible and challenging and immediate platform for learning what I want and need to learn, not just to be better at business, but in becoming a better person in community.

There is no quantifiable goal that can match that qualitative outcome.

So, while I won’t be able to resist setting 2018 goals, I am revising them to be more attentive to the character I want to cultivate; the experiences I hope to have. The relationships I want to grow.

I create my own definition of success. With that, I’ll also create a more sustainable and resilient process.

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