With the start of the new school year, there also comes the return of extracurricular activities and endless opportunities to participate.  As parents and students, along with everyone else, are faced with ways to get involved, we revisit the dilemma of deciding what to do and what to step away from.

For some, there’s a strong element of FOMO.  Along with Fear Of Missing Out, there’s an awareness of missed opportunities and doors that may be closed to you in the future if you don’t take advantage of the offer right now.  How do you accept that you’ll never get to do everything?  My daughter has asked for an eighth day in the week so she can fit in more activities.  She’s even argued that she doesn’t need to sleep every night because there are more rewarding activities she could be doing.  While I wouldn’t be willing to compromise on the sleep for either of us, I’m right there in wishing for an extra day in the week for doing everything that falls by the wayside.

Now along with being able to do everything, there can be a layer of needing to do everything “right” – where it isn’t enough that you’re participating in every activity, but now you need to do all of it perfectly.  Objectively, we may recognize that being the GOAT in every endeavor isn’t possible.  We may see that it’s unlikely we’ll ever be the Greatest Of All Time in even one area in our lives.  Then why is it so hard to accept that we may never be the best or the top at everything?

There will always be a comparison where you don’t measure up or aren’t as good as someone else.  I think many of us can relate to these experiences, though we may handle them differently.  There are a lot of frustrations, hopes and disappointments, doubts, and insecurities.  Sometimes we internalize this notion that we’re lacking in some way because we’re not able to be successful in every way.  No matter how hard we try or how much we want things, they won’t always go our way.  They can’t.  No matter what you hope or wish for.  No matter how hard you push yourself.  It won’t always work out.  After a lifetime of Disney movies and “happily ever after” to contend with, we lose perspective.

I strongly believe it’s a good thing to have something that drives you, something that you’re working toward.  But this is only effective up to a point.  The way in which we conceptualize the goal can be motivating or demoralizing.  Pushing yourself too far can be painful, harmful, and detrimental.  I try to moderate myself and to help others figure out how to moderate their own efforts when finding their own paths.  There is always an unevenness in our lives.  Try to recognize that there will be some things you excel at and other things that are a continual struggle.

When making comparisons to others, how often do we come up lacking?  It takes a very intentional effort to break this habit.  Instead of measuring ourselves against others, can we look within ourselves?  What are your own standards?  What guidelines can you develop for yourself for what you would like to see?  The challenge is to create these measures without having them anchored by the actions of others.  What are your personal values?  What goals do you set for yourself?  What responsibilities or obligations do you have in your life?  Use these tools to guide your day-to-day choices and actions.

When other people come into the picture and there’s the lure to make comparisons and see how you measure up, pause for a moment.  Instead of using other people to highlight your shortcomings, try reframing.  Can you look at other people as a source of motivation or inspiration?  What do you see in the other person that you would like to see in yourself?  It may sound a bit hokey, but you’re looking for ways to lift yourself up.  The situation is still the same, but your approach to it has shifted.  You won’t be able to do everything.  Instead, you’re seeking out the things that matter to you, choosing to invest yourself in those activities, and building on your successes (no matter the size).

Ask yourself:

– How can I honor my values?

– What are my priorities?

– Why do my goals matter to me?

– What can I do today?

– What was good enough?

– What went well?

– How did I improve upon yesterday?

– What can I aim for tomorrow?

We often focus on an end goal.  With an expectation of doing everything and being the best at everything, that end goal will always be out of reach.  While focusing on that elusive aspiration, we get disconnected from the journey itself. The end is never guaranteed, but we do have the capacity to shape and influence the route we take.  Instead of focusing on getting an A in math at the end of the marking period, pay attention to the daily efforts that strengthen math skills – bringing home the textbook, double-checking homework, talking to the teacher after class, joining math club, working with a tutor.  The A may never happen, but these daily actions reflect your values and priorities and will build the likelihood of overall academic success.

Accolades are forgotten.  Trophies tarnish and get put in the back of the closet.  Report cards get lost in the filing cabinet.  The experiences that led to these accomplishments are what gets carried on in life, not the medals.  Be passionate, have dreams and aspirations, take chances and be willing to get messy.  Do it because you want to do it.  Do it because it matters to you.