‘Overwhelm paralysis’ is pretty common in my line of work as a strategist on time, paper and stuff: homeowners with storage dilemmas, business owners suffering from a paper backlog, or working parents taxed by the daily time crunch. As we work the daily grind, in any profession or life circumstance, how can we find the motivation or inspiration to get beyond the feeling of overwhelm and take the first steps to solving the problem? The answer is simple – reflect and acknowledge your own recent history for a mental reboot.
We are busy people, and who among us play less than three roles in our day: business owner, employee, student, spouse, partner, caregiver, active parent and/or grandparent, household manager, public servant, pet owner, volunteer, sibling, teacher. Our contributions in these roles are many, yet seldom do we acknowledge the value of those experiences.
As an example of overwhelm paralysis, I’ll highlight the life of a contemporary high school senior during the fall term (and yes, I have one at home). October is a crunch month – the pressure cooker of college applications seems ready to blow as early-action deadlines loom, coupled with the expectation of maintaining fall semester grades in challenging classes. Essays, resumes, portfolios – each requirement devised to seek out a student’s unique profile. In our case, I saw the overwhelm building in my son, as he implemented creative delaying tactics on the pending applications – where to start? Procrastination is natural, but overwhelm can be debilitating.
Thankfully an opportunity to break the delay cycle appeared. In our case, the school counselors generously requested input from parents about their student to better inform the counselor’s required letter of recommendation. We saw this as an opportunity to highlight our son’s strengths beyond the GPA, to identify the finer points of our son’s skill set that he may have overlooked in his own required ‘self reflection’ – in my opinion most teens are not yet experienced in the art of self promotion (…and besides, what 17-year old sees themselves like their parents do?).
The few experiences I chose to share with the counselor (electronically, of course) reflected our son’s artistic side and how those pursuits influenced his growth. I had so much fun writing a few paragraphs about him because we were asked to contribute, to reflect. But that wasn’t the best part. In recalling his unique talents and acknowledging his hard work, I was overcome with a feeling of sincere gratitude for the experiences I earned by being a witness to and participant in his growth and learning over the years. When do we ever give ourselves permission to embrace, to acknowledge what we’ve earned?
This simple act of reflection inspired me to brainstorm further on shared family experiences and those unique to his life. Also, he had recently asked for my input on topic ideas for some of the essay prompts (yet to be written, of course). Using the handy Notes app on my phone, I visualized his and our recent life experiences and a list was born – ranging from family traditions (summers with cousins), vacations (trips to CA), activities (‘the death camp’), family responsibilities (caregiving), to notable school projects (debating as Ghandi).
In 10 minutes, I came up with a list of about 50 experiences that both acknowledged his individual energy output and communicated positive growth opportunities. It was a significant series of accomplishments, masked as life events. Although I’m not sure this was the creative juice my son was looking for to aid his essay writing, I was convinced this process was a good method to impart to him for inspiring solutions to future project road blocks.
One mission of my business as a strategist is to inspire clients to feel good about the work that we do together and in turn to feel good about themselves. It is not uncommon for me to remind clients of the ways they are stretched thin when we talk honestly about unrealized goals. Reflection on where and how our energy is spent, as well as recognition of our pursuits and their outcomes, is important for establishing future goals and choosing the actions required to reach them.
How many experiences can you list in 10 minutes? Grab a pen and paper, or your phone app and get started!
In reading your list, do you feel a renewed sense of inspiration or motivation to tackle something that is overwhelming to you?
To your success!