The Impossibility of Giving 110%

Give 110%

In business, we all know that if our expenses (what we give out) are 110% of our income (what we take in), then we will run a deficit and face potential bankruptcy.  Why can we understand this simple mathematical concept when it comes to money…but ignore it when it comes to our own lives?

In today’s fast-paced world, we are constantly being told to “give 110%”.  The result (so we are told) is that we will lead a satisfying life in which we enthusiastically say “yes” to all that life has to offer.

It’s a great concept, but it is actually more of a prescription for burnout.

While I firmly believe that it is important to be focused on completing the necessary tasks required to achieve the goals that we want, trying to give more than what is humanly and mathematically possible (i.e., anything over 100%) is misguided.

What’s worse than being told by our managers to “give 110%” is when these expectations are SELF-imposed – and extend beyond business to all other aspects of our lives.  Because giving more than 100% is impossible, not only are we burned out but we are also exhausted and more likely to fail.

I’ve discovered that “giving 110%” usually involves buying into 3 specific (but misguided) paradigms:

  1. “Giving 110%” requires multi-tasking and multi-tasking is necessary to achieve success.
  2. “Giving 110%” demonstrates the extent of our passion and commitment.
  3. “Giving 110%” views our brains and bodies as inexhaustible resources.

Paradigm Shift #1:  Multi-Tasking Can Sabotage Success

“Giving 110%” is closely related to multi-tasking – which has become an inaccurate catch-all phrase for “efficiency.”  The sad truth, however, is that multi-tasking works best for tasks that require manual repetition.

But many of us work in situations that require judgment.  These higher-level situations require creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making.  Multi-tasking these types of activities actually undermines our efforts – making us less efficient and even less effective.

And remember:  when you are unemployed, finding a job IS your job.  Trying to do too much will only exhaust you, undermine your creativity, and burn you out instead of firing you up!

We are the most effective when we commit completely to an activity in the moment – whether is is completing a task, helping a friend, networking, applying for jobs, or even taking time for ourselves.  This concept of mindfulness (or being present in the moment) means no cell phones, no social media, no television, and no activities that deflect our attention from the task at hand.

The result is usually a much higher quality end result — and a lot less stress!

So, instead of multi-tasking, try focusing more on single-tasking in order to succeed.

Paradigm Shift #2:  “Giving 110%” Can Also Sabotage Our Passion and Commitment 

“Giving 110%” is often viewed as the equivalent of wholeheartedly saying “yes” to something or someone.  Such a “yes” is something that many of us want – from others, our jobs, our lives, and ourselves.

There is no better reinforcement of our estimation of the other person’s worth to us than when we focus intently on them and their needs.  Similarly, there is no better reinforcement of our worth to the other person than when we focus intently on the task that they have requested us to do.  In both cases, we are choosing to focus (or single-task) on helping them.

But vowing to “give 110%” to another person’s requests requires going beyond our innately human capabilities and limitations.  Not only can it create burnout, but it can also potentially ignite resentment toward the person demanding that we “give 110%.”

But what if the person demanding that we “give 110%” is ourselves?  What I have found is that when we are so hard on ourselves that we cause harm to ourselves by pushing ourselves beyond what we can reasonably do, the underlying reason is usually fear.  

Looking for a new job or fighting to gain the next promotion can be frightening for a wide variety of reasons — but pushing ourselves too far, exhausting ourselves, and constantly demanding “more, more, more” is a recipe for failure.  When we are angry and resentful, it is difficult (if not impossible) for us to retain our initial levels of passion and commitment to the task.

So, instead of equating the amount of time with your level of passion and commitment to finding a new job, create a plan…and then implement it.  Give yourself “wiggle room”…and celebrate your victories!

Paradigm Shift #3:  Sleep Is a Sacred Act of Renewal 

Our brains and bodies are miraculous in their ability to process a vast array of our conscious thoughts as well as those simultaneous autonomic responses that keep us alive:  heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc.  With all this expended effort and energy, it is crucial to our physiological and psychological health that we take time for renewal.

Unfortunately, sleep (or the lack thereof) is often the first indication that our attempts to “give 110%” have depleted our resources.  Sleep disturbances and insomnia make it impossible for our brains and our bodies to replenish.  If we’re exhausted and cranky, we are much less likely to fare well on a job interview.

Sleep is sacred, sacrosanct, and critical for human survival.  Without sleep to renew us, we cannot even begin to take the necessary steps to succeed in our jobs and our lives.

So, instead of doing all-nighters, commit to working during a set schedule to implement your career plan — and then unwind with the knowledge that you have truly done your best toward achieving your goals.  The sleep that you experience will be much more restful and rejuvenating.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

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