I don’t know about you, but the beginning of the year always pumps me up — come January 1st, I have a million pans in the fire and am raring to go on each and every one. I feel energized, creatively uplifted and ready to kick some serious ass.
Fast forward ten weeks
Welcome to overwhelm city: Projects (personal and professional) are stalling as the little things — emails, meetings, networking events, that never-ending to-do list — edge out the big ideas and time to rejuvenate. What happened to yoga? How about the 10 minutes of meditation? How about that creative time for the book I intend to write? It becomes more important to finish the things I can (the familiar way of doing life and work) than worry about the things I have yet to start (“Screw it, I’ll start next week. But first let me beat myself up about it for a bit”). Sound familiar?
Balance is a made up story
It’s difficult to find balance when we’re constantly in reaction mode — living from the outside, in. Life is moving and changing around us at warp speed… as we desperately try to keep up. We even receive acknowledgment for the hustle of over committing, over performing, overproducing, staying late, being the first to arrive at the office — the list goes on and on.
If you close your eyes and think back to the past month or two, do you remember saying any of these thoughts to yourself?
- “I am overwhelmed with work.”
- “There’s no time for me to do the things I want to do.”
- “I feel like my life is no longer mine.”
- “Work owns me.”
It seems most conversations I have these days is with an overworked, exhausted, depleted, on-the-edge-of-a-breakdown, professional. And we’re barely 30% into 2017!
Time officially owns you
Consider this: In the U.S., 58% of managers and leaders work more than 40 hours a week — sound like you? — and so-called “flexible hours” actually lead to employees working LONGER hours, not fewer. On top of that, the economy has had a huge impact on job-related decisions in the past few years — meaning employees work harder, for longer hours and less pay, for fear they won’t be able to find a better opportunity. The kicker? Being a working parent in the U.S. is harder than almost anywhere else in the developed world.
What’s the payoff of living and working this way? We get to look good. Compete and win, buy the big house by the lake, get that promotion, snag that job, make a certain amount of money, receive the award, drive the fancy car. We get to finally – FINALLY – prove we’re worthy. The thing is, when we have all the “things” that “complete us”, we’re onto the next idea… the next thing. We spend so much time working to fill that gap – that in essence… don’t truly change or generate our happiness. Instead, we find ourselves depleted from trying to keep up – instead of making choices from our own internal values (aka, balance).
I Know, Easier Said Than Done
I see you shaking your head: “I don’t have the time.” Trust me. You do. You see, you created this scenario – so you get to uncreate and create again if you choose. The key is to stop making choices from ‘reaction’ mode – and get intentional. Allow door #1 to close behind you — and watch time expand to create the space for the book you want to write, the yoga you want to take on, the nonprofit work you’re committed to. For what’s waiting for you on the other side of door #2 and #3.
Cultivating motivation when everything — i.e., life — is moving and changing around us can be incredibly challenging, which makes it more crucial than ever to give ourselves the opportunity for new ideas and the space to pursue our big dreams. Want to cultivate that January 1st fire all year long? Not every minute of every day — because, for real, who needs that? — but at least once a week?
Here are some (simple) options:
- Be intentional. Just like fad diets don’t work, fad lifestyle changes won’t work either. You have to cultivate real time in your real life. Look around: free 20 minutes after the kids fall asleep? Free moment in the car before work in the morning? Use it – intentionally – or lose it.
- Fill your cup with good juice. What and who gives you energy? Is it a 3 minute meditation? A latte or a great glass of pinot? Perhaps journaling or checking out the new restaurant that opened with a friend. Find the stuff that gives you energy and remove the stuff that doesn’t (negative people – why you hangin’ with them anyway?!, negative experiences, etc.). Choose things that feed you.
- Fill in your support group. Too many big ideas and dreams vanish because we don’t speak them into the world. State your intention to friends, family, and your supportive community. They want to help you out! And they’ll keep you accountable when you falter.
How do you define balance? What is exhausting you? What fills your cup? I want to know! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.