You can catch part 1 here.
In my last newsletter, I pondered how we know when enough is enough. This week, it’s a deep dive into what I think is a more fraught, emotionally laden question:
Am I enough? Am I good enough at [fill in your blank]? Talented enough? Smart enough? Do I have enough of whatever it takes in my world?
This is one of the more painful thought loops there is, if only for its sheer un-answer-ability. It is sown with doubt, second only to the even-more-toxic: What if I’m not good enough?
From a performance perspective, these kinds of questions are not only a titanic waste of your limited resources and time, but they can also actively erode well-being and confidence.
I speak from experience. Going from career zero to career hero (at least for a sport psychologist) when I won the role of senior sport psychologist at the U.S. Olympic Committee, I was at first almost paralyzed by my perceived lack of enough-ness.
At the first professional conference I attended after getting hired at the USOC, I did not leave my hotel room for the first day and a half. I was that afraid that people would judge me as not having enough of, well, whatever it took to be a USOC sport psychologist.
It didn’t help that I was surrounded by some of the most talented sport psychologists on the planet. I avoided situations where my work might be judged by my colleagues. I shied away from getting feedback.
What a waste. For what I suffered from had nothing to do with reality. My colleagues were wonderful and supportive. Nevertheless, it took years for my self-confidence to catch up.
If this sounds at all like you, I’d like to save you some time on your journey to being "enough." Here are some ideas.
For these questions (or any thought-looping that causes you suffering for that matter), first ask the question, is this helpful? While we know that so many of our thoughts are well-meaning in the sense that our brains are trying to keep us safe, that doesn’t make them helpful right now. And by simply and kindly recognising that fact—that the question I’m asking—am I enough? or am I good enough? is in fact not helping but actually hurting me—I get to ponder what might work better.
What about the especially toxic sub-variant of the “enough” question: What if I’m not good enough? Two things to try:
1. Answer the question. If you are in fact not good enough, you will not get selected, not make the team, not keep your job. In answering the question, therefore, what will you do if that happens? By answering the question, you can help stop the looping. It’s in the non-answering that the thought loop gains power.
2. Assess the evidence honestly. You’re here, aren’t you? Surely you are doing enough. But if you realize that in asking the question, what if I’m not good enough, it’s really code for, what if I’m not the greatest ever, or a star player, or a top performer? then clearly define that goal, and get cracking on any gaps you spot. Invariably, when you can find some work to do, it helps stop the looping.
Make the shift from What if I’m not enough? to What is enough? Take the discussion from the unanswerable to something you can work on. Kate Billings, Founder and Creative Director of Blacksmith HQ, shares this model in her work with clients:
See if you can define each of these levels for yourself. This could be specific to a role (athlete, parent, work, etc.). Or hell, this could be about your life as a whole.
Essential: What can I not live without given what I need and want? This reminds you to reflect on the really important basics. It could be a great reminder to be true to you at a time when getting the next thing so often takes over.
Enough: What’s my “steady state?” Where I’m competent and good at what I do? The “I could do this all day” vibe? This question can help you see what you are already doing well - the stuff we so often minimise in the pursuit of more.
If you don’t know the answer to this question, ask a few people you trust. They will tell you. But in the pursuit of greatness, you want to get better at owning your own goodness, so this is a question to reflect on regularly.
Ideal: What IS my ideal? My mental model of success? What a great question to get specific on! What WOULD it look like to be the best, or at least kick-ass better? If you don’t know, ask.
And here’s what could happen. You could learn about where you want to “up-level.” And decide to go for it. Equally, you may decide that your "enough," your steady state…IS enough. Either way, great data for you.
If you struggle with leaning into your own “enoughness,” you are not alone. I can help with that.
P.S. My book has been published!
When Grit is not Enough is about what you can do when your usual "go hard" mantra is no longer working. As the tagline says, this is a book about how to rework your mindset and purpose for easier effort in hard times.
Order your copy from Amazon or Booktopia. I'd love to hear how you found it!
P.P.S. In case you missed my main message :), I believe that high performance shouldn't hurt people. I provide individual and group coaching on achieving the performance goals you want without hurting yourself or your people in the process. In ways that are healthier, happier, and more sustainable. If you want more information or have questions, you can reach me at email@example.com