I’ve been drafting an official project proposal for Reschool Yourself bit by bit for months now, and intensively for the last week. As hard as I’ve worked, I’ve been unable to craft my countless notes into a cohesive, inspiring proposal. The very reason it’s taken me so long to craft a full project proposal is evidence for why I’m reschooling myself in the first place.
I have invested hours and hours detailing measurable goals and outcomes, doing research to support my arguments, and shaping the proposal into the format that most funders require. The result? Writer’s block in the attempt to communicate my ideas perfectly. Several drafts of lifeless rhetoric devoid of the passion that fuels this project. Exasperation with my inability to speak from the heart when I know I’ll be evaluated. School has trained me so well that I can’t stop behaving like an overachieving student even when it doesn’t serve me. And in adulthood, it doesn’t serve me very often at all.
In fact, the two qualities that were keys to my success in school have limited my success as an adult: people-pleasing and perfectionism.
Early in childhood, I learned to sense what people – especially authority figures – wanted from me, and that I would be rewarded for giving it to them. Now, as an adult, the rewards for people-pleasing aren’t so great. I often say yes to commitments just because I’d feel guilty saying no. I regularly sacrifice my own well-being for the sake of others, a story shared by many fellow nonprofiteers and educators. I unconsciously seek a “Wow” factor in the things that I do to replicate the affirmation that I got in school.
I know that I could be more effective, and generally happier, if I could just determine what I wanted to do, and then do it. It sounds simple, but after spending around 20,000 hours* in school doing what was expected of me, I’m out of touch with what I actually want to do.
* A very rough estimate of time I’ve spent in school from kindergarten through college, based on an 180-day average school year during K-12 and a quarter system in college.