September 30, 2012

The Personal Contract

I suffer from overactive achievement focus. I think many people do. Many people spend virtually all of their waking hours focused on achieving and accomplishing things. I know that I have for much of my life, and while it has resulted in some great things, it has also resulted in a steady and persistent internal sense that I’m not doing enough. That’s not good and I’ve finally realized that.

Sure, it’s great to get things done, but I think at times we culturally worship at the altar of getting things done to the detriment of actually enjoying the life we’ve been given. That’s also not so good.

To live one’s life in a perpetual state of feeling like no matter what we do there is always more to be done, and further to go along the multitude of paths we carve out for ourselves daily, is not a great way to live. One day as I was mired in just such a mindset, it struck me how idiotic it was. How the hell was I supposed to achieve the happiness I want, like we all do, if I continually place the carrot I’m chasing yet further ahead of me without enjoying the stops a long the way.

Yet, in spite of understanding this intellectually, the programming I’ve evidently subjected myself to still craves ongoing and ever-increasing achievement and accomplishment. I needed a strategy to deal with it.

What I came up with that worked for me was The Personal Contract. This contract is an agreement I make with myself that if I do certain things consistently in my life, I will consider myself having met the terms of the contract with myself.

Before creating my personal contract, I had to do one thing first. I had to resolve that if I did meet the conditions I set for myself, I would be happy and content with my efforts. I would let go of the constant urge to do more. I would, as they say, smell the roses along the way. This sounds easy. It’s not. You have to be willing to make that one, uncompromising commitment to yourself that if you do meet the stipulations of the contract, you will consider yourself to have done plenty to improve your life, grow as a person, help others, or whatever other standard to which you hold yourself. Making that resolution is a big deal, but a vital one. Sticking to it can be hard.

Notice I said that this is an agreement with myself that I do things consistently. I did not say always. I’m not too rigid with myself. Perfection is the enemy of the good. When I sit back at the end of a day and can say I’ve done everything in the contract consistently lately, if not always, I know I must accept that as the realistic fulfillment of the contract.

To have and use such a personal contract is remarkably liberating. The sense of relief is palpable. For people like me, ending a day feeling as though we’ve actually done what we need to do to live the best life possible is incredibly important.

When creating a contract, keep it incredibly simple and concise. If you type it out, try to keep it short. Having a one-page limit in reasonable typeface might help you maintain brevity. Don’t make the stipulations in the agreement complicated either. I try to define things like “I will exercise 30 minutes daily” rather than get too specific. This allows for the natural vacillations of life while still creating a nice container into which to place the various areas of life you want to address or improve upon daily. Just because this is a contract, don’t write it in legalese or formal style. Remember, this document need only be for your eyes. Make it resonate with you, however you do that. And never hesitate to revise and amend the contract. Life changes. So should the contract.

Most of us need to slow down. We have ??? number of years in our lives and we need to fill it up with the best stuff possible. Freeing myself from my self-imposed unrealistic expectations has proven to be one of the most important decisions in my life and has resulted in much higher levels of happiness. Perhaps my experience might be useful to you or others too. If you do end up doing anything like a personal contract, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it.

2 Comments on “The Personal Contract

Dauphine Sowell
October 1, 2012 at 5:21 am

I’ve suffered this problem most of my life. I didn’t feel productive unless progress was being made. I know now that relaxation and enjoyment of life is productive. I love the idea of a personal contract. When I get caught up in “the tyranny of the urgent” a simple contract is a great tool to help me focus on what’s important.

Do It To Do It
October 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm

[…] This relates in many ways to yesterday’s post. […]

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