Leaning out—instead of in—changed my life this year for the better


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Photo: Stocksy/Kayla Snell

I’m a textbook overachiever: I was a straight-A student all through school, a valedictorian, three-sport athlete, received a full academic scholarship to college, and graduated with honors. Then 10 years ago, I moved to New York City, drawn like a moth to the lights, but more so the notion that “making it here” means something.

I’m not saying this to brag (and, quite frankly, there’s a whole conversation to be had about why women feel the need to apologize so much, especially for their accomplishments). Rather, my aim is to provide the context necessary to understand why deciding to embrace the joy of missing out and not to lean in was the single biggest (and best) decision I made for myself in 2018.

Coming to this realization, however, required taking a step back from the treadmill that was my life. You see, I’ve never felt less healthy than I have this past year. All my efforts to prove I was “killing it” at work and life felt like they were killing me. (Even admitting that is hard, especially given the fact that I work for a wellness company, but it’s true.)

I studied economics in school, and there was a saying that always really resonated with me: “averages over extremes.” But I’d never considered applying that concept to my own life.

Somewhere along the way in my quest for success, I’d lost sight of the bigger picture. So, I decided to do something about it—starting with conducting an anti-social experiment six months ago, which I fondly refer to as my summer of JOMO. The result of spending several months as disconnected from the outside world as possible in an effort to reconnect with myself was that I came to realize what matters to me most, and that’s alignment. I studied economics in school, and there was a saying that always really resonated with me: “averages over extremes.” But I’d never considered applying that concept to my own life until this year.

Now that I have, it’s helped me rein in my unbridled desire to achieve at all costs and home in on the aspects of life that actually give me the greatest return on my investment energetically. I’m holding more space for the people I love, including myself, and the activities I’m passionate about, while simultaneously releasing those things that are no longer serving me in this endeavor—and it feels good.

That’s not to say that I don’t still care about goals and crossing items off my to-do and bucket lists, or that overachieving isn’t still my default. It just means that I’m more aware of the pressures I put on myself and am more open to the possibility that there are other ways to measure a life than collecting accomplishments alone. It’s given me the space (and courage) to grow into the person I’m meant to be instead of the one I think I *should* be.

If you’re looking for more ways to find balance in your own life, try these tips from wellness pros or shift your perspective away from achieving equilibrium and to this goal instead

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