Striver Fatigue and The Art of Well Compensated White Space

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I have been a striver all of my life. I love the emotion of anticipation and I am future oriented. This meant that, for the first few decades of my life, I was always looking to what was next. I set a relentless pace for myself and I was enchanted by my sense of accomplishment. I went to graduate school when I was 43 years old while simultaneously managing my coaching and consulting practice, traveling the globe, married to a wonderful man and shepherding three children (a rising high school junior and twin toddlers at the time) through a healthy and hopefully happy childhood. It was the first time that I really felt my edges and began to question my striver tendencies. It took me 43 years of driving but I had arrived at Striver Fatigue.

As epiphanies do, mine came suddenly: “I had everything that I wanted and absolutely no time to enjoy it.” I was a textbook case of strengths in overdrive. On the heels of that somewhat depressing thought, came the next thought, “What I want now is well-compensated white space,” that is, the space in terms of time and mindshare to relax into the life I had created and to really savor it. And I wanted this space without having to abandon my current life for the pages of Real Simple. This idea of well-compensated white space took hold and became a guiding principle as I made future decisions.

Here is what I’ve learned …

  1. Creating well-compensated white space requires intention and practice because, while our bodies are built to thrive with rest, reflection, and being present in the now, our minds are built to constantly churn.
  2. Enjoying white space means dropping into a lower gear, “idling” the brain to be fully present. Three things get me there quickly
  • Being in awe – inspiring outdoor spaces
  • Savoring – that means really paying attention to an experience.
  • Being fully present for love – bring your full self to interactions with people you love
    • Technology does not come to the table
    • Making eye contact while speaking and listening as a family value

3. Measure every new purchase and commitment in terms of time rather than money and include care and maintenance in the equation. Of what value is something if you can’t enjoy it or take care of it?

4. Evaluate what you’ve already got in terms of overhead – how much time is it costing you to keep it?

5. White space can be found in micro-moments throughout the day. Seek those out and capitalize on them, frequency is more important than duration!

Thinking about acquiring white space, is a paradigm shift. That simple phrase changes focus, priorities, and decisions. It flanks striver tendencies beautifully and, like a pacer horse, reins them in to healthy practices; well-being expands and positive relationships grow. Perhaps the most profound experience in realizing you are in a moment of well-compensated white space is the feeling that you’ve finally come home.

Gretchen Pisano

Gretchen Pisano is the CEO and co-founder of pLink Leadership®. As a Master Certified Coach, her life’s work is helping people become wildly effective leaders and more awesome humans, fostering the transformation of business. The mother of three, Gretchen lives with her husband, children, and Goldendoodles in Maryland.