It is happening again. I am feeling overwhelmed and a little out of control. Maybe it is because it’s the holiday season. Maybe it’s because my kiddo has been having a rough time this fall. Or maybe it is because I have been in “Go Mode” for a while and I am starting to realize that Go Mode isn’t always a great way for me to operate. I may get a lot done in “Go” Mode, but there are consequences. Not everything I get done is good.
Maybe you are wondering what I mean by Go Mode. To me, Go Mode means I get in a kind of state where I become hyper-focused on getting stuff done. That state can last for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks. I can enjoy being in Go Mode because I feel powerful and gratified by being so productive. The problem is, my output in Go Mode is more about quantity than quality. While I am getting lots done, I am not necessarily thinking so much about how I am getting it done, whether I am doing it well, or whether I should even do it at all! That is because I am not necessarily operating in a thoughtful, critical or emotionally balanced way. And if I am totally honest, I think I can be a bit annoying when I am in Go Mode.
So how does being in Go Mode lead to feeling out of control? Let’s take a look. In my work, being in Go Mode is mostly helpful. I really can get a lot done and of course, that feels really good. But if I am not thinking things through because I am rushing, I can end up making mistakes that I pay for down the road. I have come to think of those mistakes as little bombs I unwittingly plant for myself, only to have them explode when I least expect it. One of the worst examples of this happened years ago when I had to proofread a formal event invitation that was about to go to the printer. Not only did I miss a typo in the name of our client, but I also missed a typo in the RSVP email address that was printed on the invitation! Thankfully someone caught the typo in our client’s name before the mailing went out, but my company had to pay several thousand dollars to reprint the invitation. No one caught the typo in the RSVP email address though. Thankfully my boss came up with the idea of buying the domain name I had accidentally created and we were able to receive replies sent to the email address printed on the invitation. Ugh! I was so embarrassed and I still feel the shame all these years later. If only I had slowed down and been more careful!
Another problem I can create when I am in Go Mode is that I am not necessarily paying attention to how well I am doing something. For instance, I might need to have a conversation with someone that requires sensitivity. But I’m too focused on checking things off my To-Do list, I can blunder my way through the conversation. Recently, my son was feeling paralyzed with anxiety about a school project. In my zeal to help him get it done, I was not particularly focused on his emotional state or the meaning of his anxiety. Instead, I let him know how much time he was wasting and offered lots of ideas of how he could finish the project. All I accomplished though was adding to the pressure he was already feeling and that, of course, only made the situation worse. Again, I am not proud of how I conducted myself in the moment and I realized how much I would have benefited from slowing down and taking a few minutes to be mindful about the situation before I dove in to try to fix things.
Another example of what can go wrong in Go Mode is that I can zone in on some really annoying project that requires time and focus. While this may sound good, and it really can have it’s benefits – like if I need to analyze large quantities of data – sometimes I’ll invest my time and energy in a project that does not support my top priorities. A good example is cleaning out the spice cabinet when I am about to have my entire family over for dinner. Sure it is great that I am FINALLY cleaning out all those musty old spice bottles and rearranging fresh ones according to whether they are herbs or spices and taking into consideration frequency of use, but choosing to do it two hours before I am having 14 guests for dinner is not a useful allocation of my time and energy. And it causes everyone in the household extra stress.
Perhaps you are beginning to see why I might be a tad annoying to be around when I am in Go Mode. It is not all bad, but it is bad enough that I am causing instability for myself and for those around me. That instability leads to being out of control and that is not a good place to be. Additionally, I can take on an air of self-importance and grandiosity. “I’m working so hard! Don’t expect me to do all the other things for which I am normally responsible!” Ick. No one wants to live with someone like that.
So what do I do to help myself when I get like this? That is a good question. I am still figuring it out. I know it is good to remind myself of the consequences of indulging myself by behaving this way. And it helps to remember to slow down and try to make a thoughtful plan when I am taking on a big task or project. I also know I need to work on having empathy for myself and for those around me. That is probably the most ambiguous and therefore most difficult aspect of helping myself. And probably the most important as well. Hopefully, I will remember all this the next time I’m in Go Mode.