Something happened to my daughter Eva at school. Eva loves to read for hours every day. She’ll literally walk home from school with her nose in a book, almost bumping into parked cars as she reads while walking.
In 4th grade, she had new “homework” to read for 45 minutes each day. This homework included a “reading log” in which she had to write down the title of the book, author, the page she started reading on, the page she stopped reading on, the time she started reading and the time she stopped reading each day. She was supposed to log her 45 minutes by tracking all of these metrics.
I watched something sad happen. Our daughter started to not like reading. One day, when she had a playdate and music practice and hadn’t done her 45 minutes of reading before bedtime arrived, she was exhausted but insisted on staying up 45 minutes late to log her reading time (even though she had read for 2 hours the day before out of pure desire…and I tried to explain that would average to more than 45 minutes/day). She cried and forced herself to read to log her 45 minutes. This happened on a couple occasions.
Then, something even more disturbing started happening. She told me she was reading less. I noticed times in the afternoon when she would normally be curled up on the sofa with a book, and instead she was just lying there, not reading. I asked why. She said, “Sometimes, I want to read, but I don’t want to go get my reading log and write all that stuff down. So I just don’t read.” I explained that she was already going to do her 45 minutes of reading at bedtime anyway, so if she was lying on the couch and wanted to read in the afternoon, she didn’t need to also log that. And she said, “Yeah, but I won’t get credit for doing the extra reading if I don’t log it.” So she chose not to read in the afternoon.
Like my daughter, I’m also an avid reader. I thought about how I would feel if I had to write down the title, author, time I started, time I stopped, page # I started on and page # I stopped on….and I realized that would take some of the joy out of the activity for me too. I would want to read less.
This entire situation is a metaphor for my life and career.
Early on, I was taught that my grades mattered. Not what I was naturally curious about. Not what I inherently enjoyed doing. So I went for the accolades and the performance metrics. This got me into Stanford Business School and it got me prestigious jobs and it got me plenty of money. But the joy was slowly being sucked out of everything I was doing.
I lost myself. I disowned my natural desires. I became a stranger to my innate curiosity.
Frankly, I became a stranger to myself.
Who was I? Why was I here? I had no clue.
I was too busy fulfilling all the expectations laid out by other people to discover my own truth, my inner callings.
My husband and I met with our daughter’s teacher. I was scared she’d think we were helicopter parenting and getting too involved. Turns out, her teacher was very understanding. We easily came to a new agreement. Now, Eva’s back to reading more and enjoying it again.
It wasn’t hard to change things, once I got clear.
Once I trusted my daughter, trusted myself, and took a stand for what was true, everything shifted.
The same can be true for us and our work. You can naturally enjoy your work. You just have to remember what you used to want before everyone told you what to do and how to do it. You can have an impact while sharing your unique gifts with the world.
You deserve that.
We’ve taken the joy out of work, and in some cases, out of living. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you want support in rediscovering your curiosity, reclaiming your natural desires, sharing your gifts and finding out who the heck you really are, and why you’re actually here, you may benefit from joining our Soul Circles program.
This is a year-long circle with ten women that I’ll be facilitating for 2023.
You can learn more and apply HERE.
May you read, or do whatever the heck you naturally enjoy, to your heart’s content without letting the “metrics” get you down.