Stop Chasing Yourself in Circles

Scott Leonardi

Sometimes it can feel like a futile effort when you’re spending your day trying to catch up to the initial burst of motivation you may feel upon awakening on a good morning.

It happens all the time.

Once you get some momentum going with your productivity levels and optimism regarding your routines and habits, you might start to notice that going to bed at night isn’t as stressful as it used to be. You finally feel like you have a pretty good idea about how you’ve structured your day/week and aren’t as stressed out anymore. No longer are you laying in bed awake, unable to grasp at the sheep mocking you as one by one they hurdle your anxious brain.

No, not anymore.

Now, you can feel the empowerment and relaxation that comes with having an orderly mindset about your goals and desires. You’ve read the books and articles, you’ve listened to the interviews and podcasts, you’ve gone down enough YouTube rabbit holes that you’ve finally popped your head back out the other side. You’ve found out what works for you and are actually executing on a daily basis.

Or, at least you’re taking healthy steps in the right direction and are starting to feel the evolutionary buzz that comes with true progress.

There’s just one thing: you can’t help but feel like your optimism and productivity are starting to pull ahead of you.

It’s a weird feeling, because aren’t those newly developed traits and habits just a better version of you?

Yes and no.

You may have adopted these new attributes to add to your arsenal, but just because they may be seen as positive doesn’t mean that they’re any more you than were the negative traits that you were trying so desperately to escape.

The thing about these positive qualities is that they exist with or without you. Optimism may become a personal state of mind, but it’s one that we only allow ourselves to access, not one that is fundamental to our being.

Sometimes, when we let the compound interest of our personal development go unchecked, we can fall prey to what I’ll call chasing our ghost.

It’s the culmination of what we’ve decided is the best version of ourselves.

It’s taking all the right steps and achieving all of the milestones we set out to achieve. It’s getting up early and living to the best of our ability in the most productive, healthy, and creative way it can. Then suddenly, we wake up and feel that we’ve somehow fallen behind ourselves. We don’t have the same get-up-and-go attitude, but it’s okay because we’re following through nonetheless due to our newfound habits of persistence, right?

Still, it feels as if you can’t quite catch up to the ghost that’s 2 steps ahead. It’s running away with your productivity and causing you to forget half of the ideas you thought of and half of the errands and responsibilities you wanted to take care of as well.

When are lives become overly structured, and we don’t give ourselves the flexibility to let our days play out as they may — beyond the rigid control with which we feel we must handle them — we end up frustrated and short-tempered.

  • We get annoyed when our breakfast doesn’t settle in the stomach right, distracting us from staying focused.
  • We get angrier in traffic because we have somewhere to be and this jam doesn’t fit into your schedule.
  • We become more judgmental of people who don’t care about the same things we do because we have a firm grasp on what we want and they’re just floating along happy and oblivious to all the progress we’re making. How dare they?!
  • The words we try to write aren’t flowing like they should and they need to flow because you said you were going to finish writing this thing and that thing and if this takes too long, you won’t be able to work on that without staying up too late, causing you to not get the right amount of sleep so you can wake up at your predetermined time!

Run! Run! Run! He’s getting away!

Do you see how this can have a snowball effect? Weeks can go by like this and one day you wake up depressed and exhausted and don’t know why.

When I first started taking more control of how I spent my time, this is exactly what happened to me. Not the exact examples I just wrote, but of a similar ilk.

Now, I realize that there is no ghost of perfection two, twelve, or 200 steps ahead of where I feel I am. I know, and you should too, that we are at the exact step we need to be (Unless of course you’re actively sabotaging yourself and doing the opposite of what you intend. Then, in that case, come on…cut it out).

Otherwise, understand that you can slow down and speed up your process at will. You don’t need to juice up the idea of your ideal self to the point where it takes on a mind of its own and seems to go about your day without you, leaving you in the dust of all the things you could or should be doing.

Stop trying to catch up to yourself if you feel you’re falling behind an itinerary that you made up out of thin air in the first place. Not every shot will be a bulls-eye, not every day will be blessed by the gods.

Not every moment must be spent in a hyper-focused state. Not every positive or negative occurrence must be seen as such and recorded for later use.

Sometimes, what works best is to loosen your grip, let your ship catch its own current, and let it sail where it may.

Your future self will thank you.



Image from Steve Johnson

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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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