Alright, I’m going to date myself a bit here, but Ever since that damn 1980’s Enjoli perfume commercial, I have been obsessed with the idea of “doing” and “having” it ALL.
“I can bring home the bacon.” — Yup, that’s right. I have a career, not just a job.
“Fry it up in a pan.” — Oh, you didn’t know I could burn? Natch.
“And never ever let you forget you’re a man.” — Lady in the streets, freak in the bed.
# Flawless. Who could ask for anything more?
Not sure if this pretty blonde lady has any kids, but I do. Two of them. And they’re toddlers. I do good to get dressed in the morning and not look like the abominable snowman. But this image of perfection, of juggling it ALL. SO WELL. Meeting EVERYONE ELSE’S NEEDS. (This selfless woman seems to have no needs of her own. That would be CRAY CRAY). Sigh. It’s an image that’s dogged me my whole life. Surely it’s possible, RIGHT???
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m done with this unattainable image of life. But I haven’t settled. What I have replaced it with is a ruthless prioritization of what is MOST IMPORTANT to me. Everything else (and everyone short of my kiddos) can jump off a bridge. Here’s the practice.
Whether yours was the ENJOLI commercial or something else, I find a lot of women (and men quite frankly) tortured by some kind of mental “picture” of what we are “supposed” to do and who we are supposed to be. We got these images at an impressionable time, and it seared like a brand into our brains, and we’ve been hustling ever since.
Instead of evaluating the image in real time, based on our lives, experiences, tastes and personal goals, we tailor our lives to “fit” into the image. And we pay a heavy price. Since it’s a dream that’s pretty impossible to realize (I don’t care how much money you have, either), it never quite seems to materialize, though the shame of not fitting the image lingers on inside of us.
This image (and others like it), also has a weird way of not allowing you to “let go” of anything. There’s no compromise here. And break a sweat? Slow down? Um. Did you see her? She’s got a smile on her face the whole time. Lord Jesus.
Here’s what my practice looks like:
1. Question The Source – The first battle is just noticing that you have a mental picture that you’re trying to “match”. What is that source? Is what you “need” to do and be still true for you? If not, how is it different? What do you wish you can change about that picture?
2. Give yourself the permission to CHANGE THE PICTURE. We most often inherit other people ideas of what makes a good life, but what feels good to YOU may be very different and might even evolve over time. I see people get very hard on themselves when it comes to changing the picture, as if they would rather figure out how they could torture themselves into getting it “right” over letting it go. Trust me, letting go and giving yourself permission to make your own story is one of the most empowering acts you will ever do. Write your own damn story. No one else gets to tell you how your life should look or feel except you.
3. Unravel from the minutiae. Just because you CAN do everything you competent and awesome thing you, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. In fact, the more competent you are, the less you need to be focused on the small stuff. For me this was things like not cooking my entire Thanksgiving dinner from scratch. I mean, I could, because I’m a bad bitch, and part of me wants to show this to you, however, I know its more important that I’m not exhausted and cursing everyone out all day so I can actually be PRESENT with my family for the holiday itself without feeling like the downstairs help on Downton Abbey. Whether its banding together with my other Mom girlfriends and sharing the cooking/hosting, or just having some items catered (I ordered a Thanksgiving turkey last year — cue horror screams and pearl clutching here — and it. was. AWESOME.)
Let it go…let it gooooo (you get it).
4. Discover the MOST IMPORTANT. What is it that ONLY you can do? Now, we know these fools aren’t going to do it the same way you do. But stay focused. Only YOU can be present for your kids. Only YOU can write that letter to a potential new client pitching your business. Only YOU can create a 5 or 10 year plan for your life and career. Many times we escape to the less important, but easily perfected tasks to avoid the real show. Think of all the things you said you would do “If only you had time.” That’s your list right there.
5. Step By Step. We have mental models — ways of seeing the world — that can be hard to dismantle overnight. That’s why it’s a practice. Learning and creating space for the most important is a habit, but there is no quicker way to jumpstart your life, then to start “doing less”, you you can “do more”. Then ironically you can have it ALL. It’s just that ALL is a way smaller, more meaningful, more powerful list. ALL is a list of high value tasks that make your life feel good — not that keep you from being enough. ALL is a list of your unique contribution. It’s what only you can do.
Now that’s an image worth holding on to.
What are you willing to give up to have more?
ESSENTIALISM by Greg McKeown By far the best book I’ve read on simplification life hacks for home and business. It’s more than just a few things you do, it’s truly a mentality and a way of being that will serve you as you create boundaries and embrace the space that comes once the noise has died down. Essential reading indeed.