Are you always striving to be better? Do you push yourself to be the best at everything (skills, career, looks, money), but still fall short of believing that the goals you reach are ever enough?

If you set such high expectations for yourself that you’re never able to feel at ease and enjoy your successes, then stick around, because today we’re going to learn how to let that all go and discover what really matters for you in life!

This subject popped into my mind recently while reading a bedtime book to my son: Bone Wars. The book tells the story of two of the 19th century’s most famous paleontologists, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, who fought for years to outdo each other in the collection of dinosaur fossils. Eventually, their 20-year race to dominance in their field turned them into enemies, even causing them to spy on each other and steal each other’s work.

Now, on one hand, this led to the discovery of several dinosaur species, but on the other, it was pure insanity.

The pressure we place on ourselves to succeed is so pervasive that it can infect every aspect of our lives . . . and yet many of us don’t even know why we’re doing it.

Many times, we want to tell ourselves that it’s about achievement and satisfaction, but how true can that be if we’re never satisfied and we never stop striving for more?

Thinking about that discrepancy made me remember the movie, I, Tonya. This is a dramatization of the true story of Tonya Harding, who strove her entire life to be the best figure skater in the world (and who was even suspected of conspiring in the physical assault of her toughest competitor).

What made me think of this movie was not only that she was so driven by ambition that she would commit a crime to reach her dream, but also that her motivation to do so was clearly linked to her need for love.

In the movie, Tonya succeeds where no other woman has before: she lands a triple axel in competition. In that moment, she finally feels the love and acceptance that she never got from her parents and peers.

For me, that moment was revelatory.

What do we really want when we can’t find satisfaction? Why are we pushing so hard, jumping from one task to another without stopping to enjoy our success?

Answer: we are looking for significance . . . and we can’t stop pushing ourselves, because if we do, we might have to admit that outer accomplishments are not a replacement for inner worth.

Everyone needs to feel significant—everyone needs to feel worthy and valued. What does that boil down to? Giving and receiving love.

When our cup is empty, we do everything in our power to fill it up, even if it’s with a cheap substitute. If we can’t get love, we seek significance instead through achievement and material possessions.

–          I’ve got to be the highest earner at work.

–          I’ve got to have the fastest time at the race.

–          I’ve got to have the best body on the beach.

Most of the time, we don’t even stop to assess whether these things really matter to us—it’s just a compulsion that we don’t even want to try to escape because we believe on some level that it will bring us love.

It’s exhausting! And it’s not solving the underlying problem.

What if, instead, we chose to just short-circuit that entire process? What if we made the command decision to let that go and actually focus on creating more love in our lives?

–          “But, Dr. Aziz, I don’t have a significant other!”

That’s not the only kind of love I’m talking about.

There are several kinds of love that we need to cultivate to feel satisfaction in our lives, and the first and arguably most important one to develop is self-love.

When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate yourself and love yourself unconditionally? What if you started giving yourself unconditional love right now?

–          “I’ve had 20 years of being hard on myself—you think I’m supposed to change that in an instant right this moment?”

Well, in a way, yes.

Of course, I don’t expect you to just magically drop every habit and pattern of thought you’ve created over the course of your life in an instant, but if this is something you need to solve, then I do expect you to admit to the problem and commit to doing something about it.

Self-love is a thing that you can learn to cultivate, and it’s something you can do starting immediately: read a book, take a class, go through The Confidence Code program with me . . . just take the first step!

Commit to learning it until you finally treat yourself better, and suddenly, you’ll realize that your cup is fuller, allowing you to feel more love from others and give it out generously in return.

When our love tank is on empty, we inevitably accept significance through accomplishment as a substitute.

Sure, accomplishment can feel great for a while, but that feeling will be as fleeting as the satisfaction you’ve already felt with every other accomplishment you’ve reached. After a while, this obsessive need to keep replacing that high becomes like a drug.

If we can get to a point instead where we’re filling that tank with love and connection from ourselves and others, we will create a much more sustainable feeling of satisfaction that allows us to let go of compulsive accomplishing and discover what truly matters in our lives.

In time, this process will become so natural that the love will begin to perpetuate itself.

What’s even better? As the compulsion to achieve dies down, you will actually become more productive and create more joy in your life. You don’t have to be number one at everything you do to find joy—that is just a story you’ve created in your mind. If you can let go of that standard for happiness, you will find true bliss and finally allow yourself to live your best life.

So, what is the one thing you have trouble letting go of in the accomplishment department? How do you think this one thing might be keeping you from finding peace in your life? What could you be doing to cultivate more love in your life? I’m always thrilled to hear from you regarding these discussions so that we can learn from each other and grow together!

Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.

Dr. Aziz