(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)
Frankly, we're long overdue. Let me explain.
So... last week I ran into Ryan Ray, President and CEO of Jobs for Life, a very purposeful organization I deeply respect. As we were doing the whole “How-are-you? Happy New Year” thing, he dropped this insight that made me lean in a bit.
He said: “Most people are living their lives as if they’re always preparing for a big test.”
That made me cringe a little... literally. I have terrible test anxiety, so if every day felt like I was prepping for a big test, I would just dig a hole, crawl in and call it a day. But the crux of his statement rings true, doesn’t it?
We live like we’re going to be graded on our performance (and some of us are—here’s looking at you, Meta, and your off-the-charts employee performance reviews). It's as if we’re living on the cover of a magazine or someone is going through our homes with a white glove to inspect our progress.
This is a fool’s errand. And it’s time for an anti-performance culture movement.
Of course, to understand this, you need to understand what performance culture is. Trust me, you’re immersed in it. Simply put, it’s the pressure to perform. Not once in a while, but the pressure to be productive and perfect, day in and day out.
It’s everywhere. Social media. TV. Work reviews. And the impact of performance culture is to feel like a failure—even as a high performer, which, by the way, is not a bad thing. (More on that key difference next week.)
I see this as an important part of my work as a talent development coach. I typically coach high performers who time and time again tell me they feel like they still don’t measure up. They may be top execs leading purposeful organizations, but performance culture makes them feel like they can never show cracks in the armor. Relaxing is demonized, and needing true rest is like confessing to sin.
In addition to seeing this in my coaching sessions, it pops up in our programs as well—both 28 Days of Reinvention and Living Beyond Burnout. You might think people in a burnout recovery program would know that it’s okay to rest and take their time. Nope! They need permission to rest. Because performance culture has convinced them that they are failing if they are anything less than perfect.
So... what if we resisted? What if you gave yourself permission to be exactly who you are? It’s okay.
Want to join the anti-performance culture movement? Well, this is the first step.
Who’s in? Tune in next week for Part 2 of this four-part series on performance culture. In the meantime, take a deep breath, and maybe a nap, too.