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What's the Cost of Achieving All of Your Goals?

Updated: Mar 14

Cleaning out my childhood bedroom brought back a lot of great memories for me: events I had attended, concerts I had seen, friends I had made.

It also brought me face-to-face with some less happy times, such as this note from my academic advisor in high school:

“Marissa’s involvement in various activities in and out of school – the student council, BBYO [Jewish youth group], athletics, community service – speaks well of her curiosity about life and her giving nature. Similarly, she exercises real leadership in advisory, trying to convince her peers to participate in activities such as spirit week. Her position as class vice-president suggests the respect with which her classmates view her. When one considers this level of commitment and adds in Marissa’s dedication to academic excellence, it is no wonder that she feels the sort of stress we discussed during our conference. Marissa may face some tough decisions: either she may have to let something slide, or she may have to accept the cost of achieving all of her goals. Ultimately, this may come down to Marissa reevaluating her goals, developing some shortcuts, and finding new ways to balance everything. In the meantime, Marissa is taking full advantage of her opportunities and giving back to the community.”


I noticed that this note was sent on November 1, 1993: my 15th birthday.

I so wish I could go back in time and give that teenager a hug.

I remember how confusing it was to be told that the solution was to “let something slide” while also receiving the message from every single possible direction as a sophomore in high school that in order to be a competitive candidate for college, “letting something slide” was the absolute worst thing one could do.

And, how different really is that dilemma 30 years later to, on one hand, get the memo that self-care is paramount while also feeling the pressure as a working mom, business owner, and reluctant participant in a capitalist, white supremacist, and patriarchal society that if I’m not constantly doing, posting, contributing, or producing something, I’m insufficient?

Sitting on my old bedroom floor amidst photos and newspaper clippings and school papers I had kept all of these years, my whole body stiffened when I read the phrase, “…she may have to accept the cost of achieving all of her goals.”


Wow, if there was ever a way to sum up the experience of women over the past 50+ years, that one line is it.

The cost of achieving all of her goals is so unbelievably costly.


So many women I know, me included, have been caught in that web.




Eating disorders.


Heart disease.

Sleep disorders.

GI issues.

Panic attacks.


And, I’m genuinely curious: does a man also have to accept the cost of achieving all of his goals?


It seems as though I didn’t “let something slide” because the following year, this was the note sent home by the same advisor:

“As we discussed during the conference, Marissa has so many strengths and cares about so many things that she has to be careful of overtaxing herself. Maintaining high grades, leading the junior class, building the local BBYO [Jewish youth group] and possibly regional branch, playing basketball and softball – each of these things exacts a high price, and doing them all becomes incredibly stressful. To a certain extent, Marissa seems to thrive on the stress, but she has to make sure she takes care of herself. She also will have to work hard at balancing everything, for it is obvious that Marissa has impressed many others as much as she has me.”


Evidently, what I took from this note was since everyone was so impressed by all of my accomplishments and contributions, that I should do more of them, but just work harder at balancing everything. While serving as Junior class president, preparing for the SATs, learning how to drive, and playing as a starter (and captain, of course) on the basketball team, I ran for – and was elected – Regional President of my youth group in the two months following this note.  

At my high school graduation, I received the award given to a graduating female who exemplifies leadership.

It is so clear how this shows up for us as adults too. If the boss wants something done, they give it to their highest performer. The people who are most passionate and vocal about a topic are asked to chair the committee or start the affinity group. The active volunteers of the organization are tapped to take on more projects. In any organization, it’s usually 20% of the people who are carrying 80% of the load (and I don’t have any concrete research to back this up, but just based on anecdotal evidence, that 20% probably is comprised largely of women).


This is why it shouldn’t at all be surprising that often people reach out to me for coaching because they are already burnt out or well on their way (I call this the “crispy” phase). Most of my clients are high-achieving, self-proclaimed perfectionists who feel as though they cannot possibly drop any of the balls that they are currently juggling while also knowing in their bones that the circus act is untenable, unsustainable, and very unfulfilling. I listen intently and without judgment, as they share with me how they are exacting the cost of achieving all of their goals.

Of course, I can empathize, but since I was such an over-achiever early on (oh, did I mention I skipped a grade?), I flamed out and hit the wall in my early 20s.


I spent my 30s regrouping and learning through therapy about how to set better boundaries. Now, in my mid-40s, I’m so much more clear on my priorities (my mental health and overall well-being are at the top of the list) and am super selective about who and what gets my energy.


What I wished for as a teenager (although I would not have been able to articulate or understand it then) is that someone would step in to save me from myself. I wish someone would have explained that the world will keep taking as long as you keep saying yes and, like The Giving Tree, it will leave you bare and empty.

Instead, I wish that someone would have shared with me this beautiful mantra from Desiree Adkins that feels like a balm to my soul:

“I am a precious and limited resource.”

If you (or someone you know) could benefit from working with a certified personal/professional growth coach and trained facilitator who will provide customized, holistic, and tireless support as you or your team identify and take action toward your goals, please reach out to One Eleven Leadership to set up a complimentary consultation.


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