Approval Addiction

Approval Addiction

I have an approval addiction.  I was raised to never be satisfied and to measure my accomplishments versus others.  I love to compete and wired as a Type A, ENTJ (Myers-Briggs) and Enneagram 3/8. While this competitive spirit is a useful tool in business and sport, the danger is falling into the trap that performance is the same as worth. 

I have come to learn that there are things better than winning.  And its not all about me.

A problem well defined is one half solved. Here is my problem – and things that are not true :

  1. Performance = worth: the world taught me to equate my performance, in business, sport and even volunteering, as the same as my worth.  
  2. Measuring my accomplishments vs others is winning: while I love that business is one of the best competitive fields, measuring my own accomplishments and grading myself vs others is not healthy, just prideful. 
  3. Trophies and awards are measure of success: I have many deal ‘tombstones’, and plaques on my wall. While the ‘world’ might see these as a measure of success, what really is of value is the impact on people’s lives and livelihood these represent. 
  4. My ego believes my success is self -made: when in reality I stand on the shoulders of my family, friends, teachers and mentors – and circumstances of being born an upper middle-class white male in the US – that have led to much of my worldly success. 
  5. Discipline is about maximized work schedule, efficiency and ‘atta boys‘: when in reality discipline in making time for things important vs urgent, for a conversation, and prioritizing time with family and friends.
  6. Focus on image: I have worked hard to curate my ‘brand’ as a leader but have learned that being real and vulnerable are much more impactful to others.  
  7. Capitalism has normalized selfishness: the images of climbing the corporate ladder and entertainment icons focus on self and wealth feed the American obsession with me, and individual success, instead of we.  
  8. Be dissatisfied, because ‘enough’ is always out of reach: as personified by the thousands of marketing messages we see daily, and our hurry and striving for more.  This is a major issue to my happiness as I have focused on the numerator of the happiness equation (happiness = what I have / what I want) versus fixing the denominator. 

While I don’t have all the answers, here are a few things that help focus on significance vs success:

  1. Be present, don’t grade others: choosing to be with others, not for what they can do for me, but how I can impact them, or what we can do together.
  2. Define Enough: I have defined how much money is enough, and I am learning to not to yearn for new things – like cars, a bigger house or salary.  (I did just buy a car, so have work to do here still). 
  3. Create capacity: I have blocked off a few hours each morning, and on Fridays, to create margin (or capacity) in my life, for time to focus on my non-profit work and life’s mission. One example: I left a non-profit board, so I could create time to focus on my calling.
  4. Its not about me: I am learning to not take myself so seriously, realizing that I am not irreplaceable at work, and the world doesn’t revolve around my needs. 
  5. Catch myself: with thoughts of pride, envy and replace them with thanks, joy and focus on others. 
  6. Not being afraid: Fear holds us back, and I think one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is: ‘what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’
  7. Finding grace: in clarity of thought about my mission and what God and I are doing together. 

I have learned that Success, being what the world says I should be, pales in comparison to a focus on Significance: my mission, leveraging my unique combination of God-given abilities, and dedicating my life to family, sharing life lessons and working for good.  

Hope this is helpful to you finding peace and freedom. 

Galatians 2:20