Sunset over the beach with marshlands

Confessions of a Recovering Activity Addict

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

What Sir Issac Newton intended as his first lesson in the law of motion, I took literally as philosophy of life. A state of being. An achievable aspiration. My loose mantra became, “Do more to have to be more.” My guiding principles followed suit accordingly:

  • Be easy, pleasing and agreeable.
  • Consistently exceed expectations.
  • Appear to be perfect.
  • Always take on more.

My belief that more is a synonym for success has deep roots in my early childhood. What began as a well-intentioned “chore chart” became my daily achievement fix. With each gold star earned for completing a task, I reveled in the joy of my parents’ delight. And of seeing an entire chart shining brilliantly like a summer’s night sky. When combined with straight A’s on my report card, it launched a lifelong, intoxicating pursuit of people pleasing.

Chasing stars in elementary school blossomed into chasing causes by high school. After all, what could be more gold star worthy than leading the student council, a volunteer event or a community cause?

The tested and true, never fail formula I lived was:
Please + Perform + Perfect = Success With More

When I entered the workforce, that formula continued to serve me well. I filtered stories of seemingly successful people around me through the same formula. And, my hypothesis seemed to hold true. Keep saying yes. Do it all. Without complaining. You will gain approval. Promotions. Expanded responsibilities. And, above else, that feeling that you’ve finally, “made it.”

Remember Newton’s first law of motion?

I discovered his brilliance the hard way — through my own experience. What began as a series of innocent symptoms ultimately became the, “unbalanced force,” that stopped me from being an object in constant motion. Major medical.

What started as a few extra pounds and an occasional chase of the chills became hair loss and memory loss, coupled with a fatigue so powerful I could barely lift a spoon to feed myself. My eyes changed color. My skin turned grey. My ambition slipped away.

Through the confusion and haze, I kept working, doing, being and achieving — continuing to sacrifice my health, my relationships….myself. A last-ditch trip to an unorthodox doctor helped me to face a crossroads in my life — to confront the childhood roots of the poor reason for my health — and helping to turn my life around.

What I discovered during those immensely difficult years was the formula for success was not about doing more. It was about doing less. Major medical was the catalyst to create a powerful new formula for living a healthy life without regrets:

Pause + Ponder + Prioritize = Success With Less

The transformation didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t go from hyper-speed activity addiction to an ashram in a single step. Instead, I started small — by watching the sunset. Pure enjoyment — a pause — without apology. Followed by writing in my journal occasionally. I now think of those choices as “meditation light.” An enjoyable way to learn to pause.

Giving myself permission to make pauses a healthy habit made taking another small step toward quieting my busy mind possible.

My colleague designed a 31 day meditation program with daily email prompts. He asked me to try the program and provide feedback. Each day I received an email with a topic to consider during the meditation. What worked for me about this simple approach was:

  • Automation: Someone else reminded me daily to press pause.
  • Focus: The daily topic suggestion made it easier to clear my mind.
  • Flexibility: The meditation could take place anywhere, anytime, and for any length of time.

Even though I wrote the book — literally — about living, “Success With Less,” I continue to discover new ways to practice what I preach. And meditation, which I struggled with in the past, is proving to be a valuable companion in quieting my busy mind.

Are you ready to quiet your busy mind?

Consider these small steps to get started:

(1) Download a meditation app: Consider Headspace, Calm, One Moment Meditation, or Stop, Breathe & Think.

(2) Start with 10 minutes on your calendar once a week. Even if you only meditate for five. Add or extend times on your calendar when you are ready.

(3) Reward yourself. Whether it’s by adding another five minutes to walk around the block. Be mobile device free. Or bask in the sunshine. Whatever motivates you to schedule your next five minute pause!

This post originally appeared on Medium.

Share this: