When I first started my law career, I bought into the mentality that I could have it all (and – of course – do it all too). I envisioned that I’d one day be known as one of the best in my field, have a massive book of business, and attain leadership status within my firm while at the same time being a rock-star wife and mom that my husband and children adored.
And then reality got in my way. Trying to do and have it all ended up making me:
- severely sleep deprived (I pulled a lot of all-nighters and often woke up as early as 2:00 AM just to get my work done),
- questioning why I’d ever wanted to be a lawyer (even though it had long been a dream of mine), and
- feeling unfulfilled and burned out.
But I eventually realized that I didn’t want to have or do it all. And funny enough, I achieved more success once I let go of this impossible standard.
Let’s talk about why doing and having it all is overrated (and what to do instead). And before moving on, be sure to download my free guide 5-Minute Stress Solutions that contains 8 mindset + stress management strategies for quick stress relief, a healthy mind and a happier life.
Table of Contents
What Having It All and Doing It All Creates
Back when I was trying to have and do it all, I lived in a constant state of fear. I worried about which of the million balls I was juggling would be dropped, what others would think should I not live up to my impossible standards and obsessed over the potential negative consequences should I fail at something.
It was exhausting. Worse, it created lots of self-doubt.
[Recommended Reading: 5 Mindset Strategies For Success And Prosperity].
And then my biggest fear became a reality. . . I missed an important deadline and misread a clause in a contract that I was reviewing. All around the same time.
That’s when I realized that something had to give. And so I began to question the “have it all” mindset that I’d previously adopted.
During this quest, I discovered that the phrase “have it all” wasn’t intended to mean what it’s morphed into (for information about where it came from and its original meaning, go here). And I also learned some important lessons – some of which turn conventional wisdom on its head.
These lesson will challenge your way of thinking and invoke within you some strong feelings. But that’s a good thing because societal rules are one-size-fits all. And you’re not living a one-size-fits-all life.
Lesson #1: You don’t want to have it all or do it all.
When you think rationally about what having it all means, why would you even want it? Seriously, it sounds exhausting.
Imagine that you’re placed before a buffet table full of food. So much food that 20 people could eat until they’re bursting at the seams and there would still be food left over – and you’re told that you must eat it all. That, my friend, is what having it all really is (it’s impossible).
Moreover, the buffet table includes food you don’t even like.
Now, this example may seem a bit ridiculous – because it (kind of) is. But it’s exactly what you’re doing when you try to do and have “it all”, which is why this lifestyle so often leads to exhaustion, stress, and burnout.
[Recommended Reading: 3 Effective Stress Relief Exercises (When Overwhelmed By Work Stress)].
Lesson #2: When you try to have it all, you’re going after someone else’s definition of success.
So many of us adopt other people’s definition of what success means (not our own). This is especially the case for high-achievers.
Most high-achievers are people-pleasers. You achieve a lot because you’re trying to please everyone else’s standards. The problem with that is you end up burned out and unhappy (frantically searching for more purpose and meaning in life, wondering where the spark you once felt has gone).
This comes up a lot in my coaching business. Many of my clients go after things because they think it’s part of being successful and what is expected of them – without analyzing whether it’s something they truly desire.
And that’s where I was right before I decided to drop this mindset. I was defining success according to the outside world’s terms instead of my own.
Figuring this out was life-changing. Once I became more clear as to what I desired and valued, I was able to redefine success my own way, and drop the things that didn’t fit within my new definition. That’s how I ended up more successful – because I could put more time and energy into things that were self-motivating (making it feel easier and more fun).
[Recommended Reading: How to Redefine Yourself Into Happiness].
Lesson #3: Trying to do and have it all leads to certain failure
As I mentioned above, trying to “have it all” is exhausting and leads to stress and overwhelm. Which means certain failure. Yes, you may achieve a goal you set for yourself (or many goals), but if the goal isn’t truly what you want then it will feel hollow.
You’ll even feel less worthy because trying to be superwoman comes with a hefty price tag. The overwhelm and stress will sap your mental and physical energy. Your happiness will suffer. And your relationships will suffer too – including the relationships you have with your spouse, your kids, the rest of your family, your friends, and even yourself.
And this price tag results in anxiety, self-doubt, and loss of self-respect, making it difficult to enjoy the achievements you most desired.
Lesson #4: Working hard (and wanting something badly) doesn’t equal success
Sorry, you can’t succeed at everything you do.
We constantly hear that we can succeed at virtually anything we work hard enough for. This idea is intertwined within the “you can do anything you set your mind to” messaging that’s everywhere these days.
I remember this lesson hitting home in my late 20’s. It’s not that I’d never felt failure before then (because I had). But because I’d always learned that hard work and perseverance would eventually lead to success (especially if I wanted it badly enough), I believed it.
And I also believed that failure is what happens when you don’t succeed. But, to be blunt, these are lies.
Hard work and perseverance don’t guarantee success.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. Sometimes. . .
- Other people have more talent and/or work harder than you,
- Others are luckier than you are, and
- Things don’t turn out fairly.
This lesson is best learned when young (especially when our parents are still around to help guide us). So, to the parents out there: please don’t teach your kids that they WILL achieve anything they want and work hard for.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard to get what you want. There’s obvious value in doing this. You may succeed. But even if you don’t, you’ll have learned something and grown from the experience (which is a form of success in and of itself).
The thing is: it’s okay not to succeed at everything. That’s how you learn, grow and do better.
What matters is getting back up, dusting yourself off, and moving forward with the knowledge gained from the experience (I would argue that you haven’t failed if you’ve done this).
[Recommended Reading: How To Be Confident Again After Failure (5 Strategies)].
Lesson #5: You’ll be happier by letting go of the have it all/do it all lifestyle.
Ever feel like you’re floating through life without much purpose or meaning? Living the “have it all” lifestyle leads to feeling lost and purpose-less. It causes overwhelm, anxiety, stress, and guilt. And feeling like a failure – even when you “succeed” (because it isn’t very meaningful to you).
If you find yourself feeling this way, let go of trying to have and do it all. It’s the first step to getting clarity about what you want out of life – and what success means to you.
We each have unique gifts, talents, and strengths. And we each have individual values that are supremely important to us. Purpose and meaning comes from aligning our actions and decisions with our values and using our strengths and gifts within our daily life. And that’s true success.
Now, just because you align your actions and goals with your core values doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed at everything (because Lesson #4 still applies). But you’re more likely to be successful at something that’s aligned with your values. And you’ll have a lot more fun doing it, regardless of the outcome.
[Recommended Reading: 10 Life Tips For How to Excel In Life].
Stop trying to have it all and do it all. It’s not worth it (and you’ll be happier + more successful in the long-term when you do).
To help you get started, begin with your mentality. Take control of how you process your thoughts so that you can feel less stressed, more in control and create the space you need within your mind to get clear about what you want.
My free resource (5-Minute Stress Solutions) will help you do that. Not only does it include simple stress relief exercises, but it also includes mindset strategies that will help you create the space you need and become more clear. You can download that here: