You can’t actually have or do it all. At least not in the same season of life. Every time you say yes to one thing you are saying no to another thing. Or another someone. Too many people push uphill through life this way, no clear game plan, head in the sand, tossed to and fro. Unhappy.
Each and every class I teach begins with the foundation of getting clear on WHO you want to be and HOW you want to feel. Otherwise, how do you set meaningful goals or know when you arrive? How do you know what to say yes or no to? What guides your spending habits or the people you hang out with or the type of media you consume, or even what you eat for breakfast?
You need to get big picture clarity.
Then you will be able to live purposefully. You will live anchored by a strong foundation, a rule book of sorts, for guiding your decision making on a day-to-day basis. And along the way you will need to learn to say no to some awesome things or learn to disappoint some people in order to live aligned with your core values.
Because you actually can’t have and do it all.
Your doctor recently told you that you’d better start exercising, sleeping and eating right or you’re headed for a heart attack at the age of 45. You nodded your head in agreement and then came home, determined to change; you don’t really want to leave your wife and young kids to bury you so young and have to find their way without you. So instead of grabbing a cold beer and plopping down in front of the TV as is custom, you pull out a weekly calendar (like this free printable I like to use with 30 minute time increments) and actually shade in time blocks for exercise and adequate sleep. And since you cannot ask your wife to do all the cooking because she’s busy too, you block out a couple nights where you can be in charge of supper. But then you realize that this will conflict with the hockey game and your hot wings night with the guys at the pub. But you can’t do everything so you make some hard decisions and cut and slash until you can see clearly, on paper, when and where you will begin to implement these new healthier habits. You feel like a weight has lifted off your chest already.
You believe in building community and in service but you serve so much that your teenage kids never see you anymore and you don’t remember the last time that you actually had a date with them; time to joke and listen to your oldest’s plans for college next year. And your youngest hides in her room a lot these days and you wonder if she’s ok. One of your primary values is building a strong, connected family and you realize suddenly you must make some big changes. Now. Before your kids leave home or no longer want to spend time with their mom. So you pull out the weekly calendar but in between all the meetings and coffee dates with girlfriends who need you, and the home management and making real food, you cannot see where there is time to connect with your own kids! You cannot do everything. At least not in this season. So you cut and slash and make hard phone calls, and disappoint some people, until you can see clearly, on paper, exactly when and where you will spend time with the people you love most in the world. And you breathe a sigh of relief.
So many of your friends are divorcing and many more have confided in you the struggles they have in their relationships. You feel like you and your partner are more like distant roommates than best friends and lovers. But you love him and you realize you need to actually fight for your marriage or it will crumble like that of so many around you. But you’re both tired and busy and doing your best to be good parents and responsible adults. What are you going to do? After a conversation with your partner, you pull out the weekly and monthly calendar and begin blocking out, in advance, date nights and quarterly trips away. Money is tight but you determine to cut back in some other areas to prioritize your marriage. You’re already feeling closer to him, just having gotten some clarity together. Yes, it means telling the kids that they can each only do one extra-curricular activity next semester. And yes, it means you will say no to the girlfriends’ trip to Vegas and your husband, too, will make some sacrifices, but you realize that you can’t do everything and are both committed to making your marriage a priority. Now you have a doable plan, clearly marked out on paper. You haven’t felt this happy in a long while.
You’re building a new business as a health coach but all the hustling over the past year means you’re not sleeping well, you’re skipping meals regularly, you never see your friends, and your adrenals are fried. You feel like a fraud because as you post about healthy living on your Facebook page you look around at your life and realize you’re miserable. This is not what you had in mind when you left your corporate job to encourage others to care for themselves well. You keep accepting work project and client after client, fearful of missing out. Fearful of not growing fast enough or getting lost in a crowded market. But you bravely pull out your journal and review your core values and remind yourself of who and how you want to be. Then you print out a weekly calendar, and settle in on the couch, pencil in hand, to figure out exactly where you will schedule in time for meal prep, time to move your body and connect with your friends. You block time out for work – that’s all you get because you need a life beyond work. A joyful, healthy life. And you simply cannot have or do it all at once. And after erasing and changing things and moving things around, you smile. You have a new game plan and you know you’re going to sleep better tonight than you have all year.
If you cannot see clearly, on paper, when and where and how you will take time for the things and the people you value most, then go back to the drawing board. This is your one life. You don’t get a do-over. You cannot have and do it all.
And don’t just say, “I’ll make food on the weekend.” When, precisely, on the weekend? Did you build in time for buying groceries? Did you leave some white-space for inevitable interruptions or mishaps? Be super realistic. If you end up with free-time, perfect; read a book or text your mom.
Better to have some breathing room than to spend your life frantic, drained and always a little resentful.
You cannot have and do it all but with a willingness to get clear on who and how you want to be, and a little planning, you can craft a purposeful, healthy and amazingly joyful life.
*image via Death To Stock