Lowering the Bar Enough to Trip Over It

As an antidote to creeping overwhelm, recently I went through my to-do pile. I selected what seemed like a short list of projects to work on for the coming 3 weeks and ditched the rest. Everything eliminated went off my desk, into a drawer, and out of my mind. When occasionally I thought of one of those activities, I reminded myself it wasn’t on my current agenda.

Since then I’ve had room in my schedule to be creative according to my own energy flow rather than be taunted by a looming list of “shoulds.” And amazing things have happened. I completed my few projects and many more. My community saw growth unusual for such a short period. I booked $35,000 in the past week alone. And all of it happened with joy and ease.

Reflecting on these dramatic and unexpected successes, I heard myself jokingly say I’d lowered the bar enough that I could trip over it.  And then I realized that was the key for my future. At first I resisted the notion of decreasing my expectations of myself long term. After all, I wouldn’t want to tell my children, “Hey kids, from now on, instead of shooting for the moon, just shoot for that mailbox.”

But I’m an adult who historically had such high expectations for my productive output that I was in my own way. I was overly attached to my to do items, assessing my self-worth by the length of my list (I was “better” when my list was shorter). Unwittingly I set up a system where by the time I completed my original commitments I’d already added so many more that I couldn’t consider myself worthy of praise or celebration. Not a recipe for sustainable joy or ease.

All along I was a master prioritizer, always good at figuring out what belonged at the top of my stack. The difference a few weeks ago was that I actually removed the bottom of the stack.

By lowering my expected output, I released attachment to most of my projects, unconsciously releasing the energy that was bound up with my incomplete work. That made room for possibilities I previously hadn’t even imagined to come to fruition. Rather than trip over that lowered bar, I climbed upon it and reached new heights.

Have an idea for how to decrease overwhelm and increase productivity by shifting your mindset? Please share!


  1. Nneka Working Mystic

    Hi Debra, I love the idea of lowering the bar so that you can accomplish what you need to and step onto it. I recently embarked on building my coaching business. Just 6 weeks actually. Like any overachiever, I have a crystal clear picture of how I want it all to work out, but I am overwhelmed by the every day steps. To curb that, I choose one thing every week and focus my efforts on that. I've made incredible progress in a short amount of time.

    Huge congratulations on $35,000 booking!
    My recent post If You Don’t Experiment With Your Life Now You’ll Regret It Later

    • Debra Woog

      Nneka, congratulations on launching your coaching business. Sounds like you're off to an awesome start! May you continue to focus with ease and reap huge benefits from it!

    • Debra Woog

      Yes – time magically opens up! That's the perfect way of putting it. Thank you.

  2. Maria Burtis

    Love this post, Debra! Last september I set a goal to "underachieve whenever possible" — I wrestled with the idea that doing less made me less, but truly, it opened up space to expand into more stillness and presence in everyday life. Three cheers for lowering the bar!

    • Debra Woog

      Maria, I love the goal to “underachieve whenever possible!” If you're in MA this summer, please let me know. We can underachieve together. 🙂

  3. Shelly Aschkenase

    Your blog was exactly the advice I needed to hear this morning!
    Prioritizing better will help me to stop feeling like a hamster on a wheel.
    Thanks for sharing this valuable strategy!

    • Debra Woog

      So glad it spoke to you!

  4. Paula G

    Nothing like clearing the slate to focus. I love the idea of lowering the bar…. I usually think of it as clearing the decks and a few other things I use to focus & release the rest. Amazing what happens. Congrats on all the business!
    My recent post Is Your Calendar Holding You Hostage?

    • Debra Woog

      Clearing the decks is good too. But if the deck could be moved downstairs???

  5. Cindy

    Wise, witty, wonderful!

    I know how hard it is for you to lower the bar for yourself, and I am so happy you were able to do it with such joy and ease! And as far as telling your kids to shoot for the mailbox not the moon (lol) maybe it would help to remember that they can reach the mailbox by walking down the path and stretching to reach it, while reaching the moon requires a privately funded space program. Perhaps there is a happy medium to point our children (and ourselves) towards?

    And congrats on booking so much business in just one week!

    • Debra Woog

      That made ME LOL! Thanks!

  6. Dorethia Conner

    I was getting overwhelmed by the fact that I didn't even have time to spend reading. Then I realized, I have control over my time, whether for business or pleasure. This post has helped solidify my epiphany – thanks for sharing.

    – Dorethia http://www.connercoaching.com
    My recent post The Nitty Gritty on Starting Your Business…

    • Debra Woog

      You do, Dorethia! It's such a relief when we remember that, isn't it?