“Set yourself up for success” became my mantra a few months ago. I know it sounds extremely cheesy, but for some reason it resonated with me. I was spending a lot of time setting everyone else, my kids and employees, up to be successful. But what about me? I was so worried about others that I was setting myself up to fail.

What triggered this realization? I hit a breaking point. My job, software qa manager, is typically a high stress career but some things had changed and it was even more so. On top of that I was trying to do everything at home, and angry with myself for not being able to “handle” everything. My son started a new school in my ex husband’s school district (formerly in my district). So, I was feeling the pressure to super advocate for my disabled 8 year old son. Trying to do all of these things was leaving me exhausted and frustrated with myself. I was setting myself up to fail. I had impossible expectations for myself.

futureI decided it was time to make some changes. I grabbed a pen and paper. The very first thing I did was decide on my top three priorities in life. On the surface it sounds easy right? But I had decided I wasn’t going to waste energy on anything but these three things. This was hard for me. I had to give myself permission to not be everything for everyone. I had spent 40 years of my life taking care of others. After some serious consideration and conversations with myself I had my list. 1. Take care of myself mentally/emotionally. 2. My children. 3. Work towards owning our next home.

So, in order to be successful with my top three priorities I had to make some changes. First, I made a list of all of the things that were adding stress to my life. All of the stress was stopping me from taking care of myself and from focusing on my children. Then I thought about each one and determined if it was in my control to change it. Lastly, those items that were in my control, I listed what I could do to reduce or eliminate that stress. For the items out of my control, I had to resolve to let them go. I can’t control the situation but I can control how I respond. Being angry, upset or frustrated with things out of my control was setting myself up to fail.

Finally, I created a list for each of my top three priorities and how I will set myself up for success.

Taking Care of Myself (mentally and emotionally)

  1. Get more sleep. I was getting 5 or 6 hours a night. I wanted to get at least 7.
  2. Meditate more. I was meditating a few times a week but needed daily.
  3. Don’t over commit. It’s ok to say no.
  4. Use my kid free time to recharge. Spend time hiking, quiet time, naps.
  5. Learn to avoid negative self-talk. This is so ingrained in how I see myself. I’m working hard on this one.
  6. No more dating apps. What?! Although I wasn’t dating, I kept my accounts open and would reply to messages. This was wasted energy. If finding a partner isn’t a priority then this has to go.

My Children

  1. Do what I can so that I don’t have a lot of things to do when the kids are here. (laundry, errands, etc)
  2. Let go of my expectations. I would get frustrated when the kids when they didn’t do what I expected them to do. Partially because I had all of these other things I wanted/needed to do.
  3. Accept that what I’m doing is enough. Let go of the mom guilt!

Work towards owning my next home

  1. Stay on budget. I’ve always budgeted for bills and expenses but definitely a little loose with my savings.
  2. No more impulsive purchases. While they are usually small things, they add up.
  3. Continue to build my credit. It got pretty wrecked during my 2 year long divorce

Looking at the list it seems reasonable and doable. The hard part is letting everything else go. That doesn’t necessarily mean not “doing” anything else. For example, my career is not in my top three priorities. That doesn’t mean I’m going to slack off, not go, etc. It means I’m not going to worry about climbing the corporate ladder right now. I gave myself permission to just do the best I can in my current role without being disappointed in myself for not being further in my career.

I regularly evaluate how I’m doing with these three priorities. Sometimes, other “priorities” would creep in. I had to step back and say, is this new thing more important than my top three. The answer is always no.

While my mantra “Set myself up for success” might not stick with you, it’s something we should all consider. Are you setting yourself up for success with the things that are truly important to you? If the answer is no, then maybe it’s time to make some changes.