I went through a pretty awful divorce a few years ago (aren’t they all?) and during that time I did a lot of reflecting on the life I had lead to that point and the life I wanted to lead going forward. As a result, I made a very conscience decision to lead a less frenzied, calmer life. It was and still is the best decision I have made. But making such a decision doesn’t necessarily lead to the action needed to put this new pace of life into being.
Like most American moms, I spent countless hours in a car driving my daughter to and from school and other activities. At one point, I was driving her to a new school that was almost an hour away. We did this a full year before moving closer to the school. I’ve always been a volunteer at her schools and clubs and generally busy with businesses, taking care of a home, feeding a family, and all of the other things women engage themselves in. My American Indian name in the YMCA’s Indian Guides Program (think Scouts for families…now called Adventure Guides) was “Frazzled Feather.” Yelp, I was guilty of always being on the go and saying yes to everything.
This is the time of year when that very frenzied life is most noticeable and really takes its toll. I see it everyday in the lives of my neighbors, clients, and friends, and I would like very much to wave a magic wand to make it all stop. But since I can’t seem to locate my wand today, I’ll just share with you what I have learned about slowing down my life.
1. Just say “NO”
NO! The most powerful word in any language. I took a self-defense class many years ago, and one of the techniques we learned was to yell “NO!” to a would be assailant. Apparently the word no has such a powerful psychological affect that it will even make a would be attacker pause long enough for you to get away. So pull out your self-defensive NO! and spread it around liberally. (Just say NO, just say No… sung to the tune of “Let It Go”)
Saying No is such a power trip and so incredibly liberating. It’s a hard step to take at first, especially for those of us who are (were) serial yes sayers. But once you get the hang of it…look out!
2. Stop trying to please.
Women are notorious pleasers. We don’t want other people to disapprove, dislike, or be disappointed in us. So we say yes to things we don’t really want to do in order to make sure everyone is pleased. Well, you’ve heard this a million times…you can’t please everyone. So don’t even try.
Then see #1 above.
3. Listen to your inner voice.
You know that little nagging feeling you get? Well that is your inner voice. Some say it is the voice of God or the Universe or your instinct or just a gut feeling. Funny thing is…it always knows what it best for you at exactly the right time. You have the answer to every question if you will just pay attention to that feeling. It takes some practice to pause and quiet your mind, but it is well worth learning to listen. And the best part…you do not have to justify it or even understand it. Just trust that it is always right.
Then see #1 above.
4. Find out who you really are.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? This has nothing to do with how social you are. It has everything to do with how you regain your energy. So how do you energize…charge your batteries? Do you need some quiet, alone time to feel ready to take on the world? Or do you get your engines revving after being with your friends and family? Personally, I must, must, must have some alone time or some very quiet home time.
Step back and be your own observer. Are you in need of some time for charging your batteries? Then make a conscience effort of creating the space and time to do just that. Don’t put it off. People who take the time to re-energize are far more productive in less time than those who labor on.
5. Re-evaluate what you really need to do.
I used to clean my house from top to bottom and inside out every weekend and especially before my family or in-laws visited. Every detail had to be just right. And you know what? Within a few hours of my doing so, it was messed up again. I love a clean house, it is my sanctuary, but every little thing does not have to be in place. Long ago, I stopped by a friend’s house on my way home. She wasn’t expecting me and when I walked in I was both shocked and relieved. Her kitchen looked like an explosion had occurred. There wasn’t one inch of counter space visible. I had never seen her house like this, and at the same time I was so excited to see she was a real person after all! Another friend had a small sign hanging outside her front door that said, “If you came to see me, then come on in. If you came to see my house, then make an appointment.”
So ask yourself…what do you REALLY need to do? Is it a want or a need? This is a super simple but very powerful question to ask yourself about most all aspects of your life.
Then see #1 and #2 above.
6. Stop running the race.
Did you ever just stop and look around you to see how frantic everyone seems to be? Every man, woman, and child is over scheduled. Did you know that life won’t end if you don’t participate in everything that comes along? Your children won’t suffer if they are not enrolled in every sport or activity. Your family will still love you if you don’t participate in every gathering. Step out of this crazy pace of life that we have somehow gotten ourselves into. But the trick is you have to be able to recognize it and conscientiously slow down.
Life is not a competition or a dress rehearsal. Life is a conscience endeavor, a choice you make everyday. Life is right now. NOW is the only time we really ever have. I would suggest that when we are engaged in a frantic pace, we aren’t engaged with our lives at all. We are too busy preparing for some elusive future or trying to repair a past that only resides in our memories.
I am not delusional on this one. I recognize that we have to earn a living, and we have to make some preparations for future events. What I did was step out of the hamster wheel. I found that I am just as productive when I am not running around like a crazy person. I set a more moderate pace for working and living. I don’t crowd up my schedule because I have come to realize that clients and friends will still be there if I set a reasonable pace. Why are we in such a hurry all the time?
So slow down. Engage in every activity as though it were your last. Stop setting those goals that require you to move mountains everyday.
And then, of course, see #1 above.
7. Check out.
Turn off the electronics…television, computers, phones (gasp!)…and get quiet. The world is simply too noisy. Noise and stress go hand-in-hand. Learn to quiet your mind with some meditation. For me, this is a lifesaver. Go outside. Take a walk or hike. Dig in the dirt. Read a book. Create something. Garden!
The quiet is an amazing place. It can be very disturbing for someone who isn’t accustomed to it, but once you’ve experienced quiet, time seems to slow way down. The world will still be there when you return.
And, yes, you do have time to check out everyday if it is a priority. If you think otherwise, then you need to revisit #1-6 above!
Now slow yourself down and enjoy the holidays!