Running uphill for our whole lives (and finding time to stop and breathe)

If there’s one thing you’ll get to know about us, it’s that we tend to be a little overly ambitious (isn’t this true of most entrepreneurs?). A dear friend of mine lovingly calls us her “power couple”, and there’s definitely both a good and bad side to being those people.

Driven folks like Ryan and I tend to accomplish a lot and one of the most common sentiments expressed to us is “I just don’t know you do it ALL!”

But here’s the truth… we don’t do it all. We don’t do even close to it all.

And sometimes our ambition and drivenness and hard work ethic pushes us straight to the limits, where we’re hanging on for dear life by our fingernails and one little sneeze might cause us to fall right off the edge.

You see, the dark side to our lifestyle, this incredible, exciting, no-holds-barred EntreFamily lifestyle we love to lead, it that sometimes it actually ruins us.

We push ourselves so very hard, a relentless stormy gale of must-dos and obligations and bigger goals and better achievements, that at times it’s all we can do to stay standing upright against this tempest of our own creation.

About an hour ago, our house cleaner left, as I was frantically trying to finish editing this week’s podcast and the kids were starting to get restless and cranky. That’s right. Our house cleaner. The person we seem to call in desperation about once every two to three weeks to come bail us out of the sty we’ve found ourselves mucking through.

For years I thought I could do it all…

…the mothering, the cooking, the housework, the homeschooling, and the working, if I only organized myself well enough. I’ve gradually come to realize that’s not true. I’m often trying to do the work of 2-3 people and then wonder why I feel so defeated in each aspect of my life.

Hence, the house cleaner. (Though I still haven’t quite brought myself to having her come on a regular basis, insisting each time that I can handle it and only need her to come once in a while, though Ryan is trying to instil some reality in me…).

Ryan can be the same way when it comes to heaping more on his plate than is humanly possible. His big dreams sometimes translate into overworking himself, until he gets to a place where he’s stuck in the sheer grind of doing what we entrepreneurs do best — doing whatever needs to be done. At whatever cost.

What this generally equates to for us both is burnout and exhaustion.

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This Christmas we felt it keenly.

I had been sick or under the weather in various ways for about 3 weeks, my deadlines for my work (my blog, my book proposal, Ultimate Bundles, and EntreFamily) had all been piling up, and I was nowhere near ready for the holidays. Ryan was juggling two huge projects for Ultimate Bundles which were both at a very crucial point and required a lot of him, plus his schedule was full with commitments for two weddings in which he was playing a large role the week after Christmas.

By the time we both finally stopped working on Christmas Eve morning, you could stick a fork in us, we were so done. We had very little left to give for the holidays themselves and all our family gatherings. We were tired. We wanted nothing better than to hole up and do nothing. Our house was a wreck. We had to stay up until after midnight getting gifts wrapped and stockings prepared.

We did what we felt we were supposed to do, which was push through, put on a smile, and enjoy the holidays as graciously as possible (and in truth, they were wonderful- we had a lot of very special times with extended family and with our kids).

But in so many ways, we were just getting through it. We took of Christmas Day and Boxing Day to be with family, knowing that our work was piling up by the minute.

By the 27th, we went back at it furiously, burning the candle at both ends. We felt like we had only just barely stopped to catch our breath and suddenly we were back in sprint mode, racing to make it to the finish line.

But sometimes I wonder… where is the finish line?

Was it when we finished our two-day flash sale for Ultimate Bundles? Will it be when I get back on track with podcasts and blog posts due by early January? Or when we do more preparations for our trip that’s coming up in about 4 weeks, booking our Eurail tickets and first accommodations and finishing buying what we need and getting our house ready to leave? How about when the DIY bundle finishes at the end of this January? Or when our plane takes off on January 29th?

In reality, there isn’t a finish line, because we haven’t set one.

Instead, we relentlessly add more to our plates, pick up a new project just as another ends, always living right on the cusp, on the very edge of where achievement and insanity meet.

This morning I absentmindedly picked up my Strengths Finder book while waiting for something in the office, and starting skimming through the profiles for each of my top 5 strengths (mine are Strategic, Input, Significance, Focus and Achiever – you?).

As I read the chapter on Achiever, this quote (from a fellow Achiever) caught my eye:

“…it’s good because you live in pursuit of the perpetual challenge. But in the second place, you never feel as though you’ve reached your goal. It can keep you running uphill at seventy miles an hour for your whole life. You never rest because there’s always more to do…” Sara L. as quoted in Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

Amen to that. And have mercy. It’s true. There’s always more to do and we seem to perpetually be running ragged or playing catch-up.

Which is why we haven’t posted on this blog for a week and a half. So that we could get by. It was the break we hadn’t planned on but desperately needed. (And thank you for your graciousness with us… we hope that you were offline anyways, enjoying the holidays yourselves.)

We just talked about goals in Wednesday’s podcast, and this is one for both of us for the New Year. To learn to live with more balance and more margin, accurately assessing how much we can really take on, and what will push us over that ever-approaching edge.

We can’t run uphill forever. There are seasons as entrepreneurs where it is sometimes a necessity, but it shouldn’t become your modus operandi (nor should it be ours). We need to catch our breath and even stop to take in the view once in a while.

And with that confessional, we’re welcoming this New Year with open arms. May we find in it that delicate balance between pursuing excellence and recognizing limitations. Reaching for worthwhile achievements while treasuring our lives and the journey that gets us there.

What goals do you have for 2015, both personally and professionally? And can you relate to the never-ending uphill grind?

Top image by Igen. Star image by buerserberg.

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