let go

Let Go

The Better Me Project—Day 27

April is almost over and my Better Me Project is drawing to a close. During this month, I’ve considered how I project myself to the world, in both mannerisms and what I actually say. I have meditated and learned deep breathing techniques to get my anger under control. I’ve been accepting and understanding and have bent over backward to be aware of others. I have smiled at strangers and gone out of my comfort zone…a lot. And I have to tell you, it’s becoming a bit tiresome. All this “being a better person” nonsense isn’t much fun after all. I’ve got to think before I speak, take deep breaths before getting annoyed, and constantly remind myself to be…well, better. Not to mention the daily blogging is really wearing me down. This has not been as fun as I expected.

What’d I’d really like to do is have some fun. Be lazy. Be selfish. Talk to the dog. Yeah, I said that. Talk to the dog. Basically just let my hair down. I don’t do that enough. I don’t just laugh and go where the mood takes me. I’m doggedly persistent about what needs to be done—laser focused on it. I think if I have learned anything this month, it is the fact that I have to go with the flow more often and stop obsessing about what needs to be done and what I’m not doing. How I’m failing as a mother, wife…person. I need to let go.

Let go? What the heck is that? My brain doesn’t comprehend that concept. I am not, by nature, a person who will just “let go”. To “let go” I need to sit on the couch and binge watch a Netflix show. I should spend the entire day outside reading instead of pulling weeds. I’ve got to go out on a school night and not worry about how tired I’ll be in the morning, not worry about making my lunch and getting up to work out and all that. It’s weird…that all goes against everything that I’ve worked so hard to achieve this month. I have followed all these precepts about thinking before I speak and concentrating on how I am coming across to people and I’m not thinking about how I’m stressing myself out more than I was to begin with.

I’ve spent the last three and a half weeks or so focusing on being conscientious and now at this point I’m realizing that I’m TOO conscientious? I don’t know how to let go no matter what? Even when the point is to be more relaxed? What the heck is THAT about?

Will I ever get it right? Well, in a way, I did—I was able to get somethings right in the past few weeks. I enjoy meditating and I let go of my road rage fairly easily. I feel better smiling more often. Donating makes me feel great, too. Kissing Hubby good-night is sometimes the highlight of my day. The relief I feel staying away from social media (for the most part) is also well worth it. I did get a lot out of this project—more than I realized initially.

Some of the other precepts haven’t been easy, but I’m going to still try. Not beating myself for failing? That’s gonna be one of those long term things. Cutting down on the gossip has been difficult, but I know it’s best in the long run. Trying not to roll my eyes? Yeah, that’s a work in progress for sure. Not complaining? I may end up biting my tongue off from my attempts to curtail my complaints.

When I first started this project, I had nagging doubts about it.I wasn’t sure how successful it would be. After all, I was asking myself to change in many ways, shed a lot of habits and baggage that I’ve carried around with me for years. I wasn’t sure I could do that or I really wanted to do that. Can a person really change? Or are we doomed to be the same people forever? (Which isn’t a bad thing if you’re someone fabulous.) Or maybe, we can’t change, but we can be better. And truthfully, that’s what this whole project was about.

Do I need a whole month to be a better person? Heck yeah—I need a lot more than that. But I am done with this project for this month. It has drained me mentally and emotionally in ways I never expected. Today will be the last “Better Me Project” post.

I realized that I can’t be hyper-focused on a precept every day. It’s too overwhelming and a constant reminder that I’m supposed to be actively doing something, which is the mindset I wanted to get away from to begin with. Did I fail? Not really. There’s no failing in trying your best, even if you don’t accomplish the goal the way you want to. REMEMBER THIS, HEATHER! All I can do is remind myself of the goals that I have set for myself and try to accomplish them the best way I can. Smile. Take deep breaths. Live in the present. Choose kind.

I will have good days and bad days. Every day I can try a little more—I can do better than I did the day before. When I fail, I will pick myself up and promise to do try harder next time. I will let go, relax, and be okay with the person I am today.

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Get Out of My Comfort Zone

The Better Me Project—Day 26

Ah…the precept that I feared the most. Get out of my comfort zone.

That might seem like the easiest of all. How hard is it to do something that’s not something you normally would do, right? Just say, “Oh, I don’t normally do that, but I’m going to make a point to do it today.”

Well, for you, it might be the simplest thing in the world. For the other millions of us that suffer from anxiety and things of that nature, going out of one’s comfort zone can be the most painful and dreaded task they can be asked to perform.

It Seems a Little Dramatic…

I assure you it’s not. Research has indicated that anxiety often arises from people going out of their comfort zone. People who are anxious overthink pretty much everything in their lives. Did I talk too much at that meeting—did I say anything stupid? What time do I need to leave if I want to make the show—what if I miss it? I can’t take the bus to the city—how will I know where to get off? 

While I can’t speak for everyone, for me, that’s why I tend to stick to routines and feel better when I do. For example, if I know how to get to work taking that road, I’ll do that every single time—until the road is closed and I have to make a detour—then I panic.

Same thing with almost everything in my life. I know I like that restaurant and I’m comforted by knowing what to expect when I go there, even though I’d like to try somewhere else. I go to that nail salon because they know me there and even though they’ve been doing a terrible job lately, I’m going to continue to go because that’s where I feel comfortable and not anxious. My anxiety is compounded (or maybe even caused by) my hearing loss, so I have always feared getting out of my comfort zone because I’m terrified that I’ll miss something and it’ll be disastrous. That would be what therapists call “catastrophizing”—basically assuming the worst and making a mountain out of a molehill.

Once Upon a Time

When I was younger, I was a lot less anxious, a lot more daring. I’d go on roller coasters , swim deep in the ocean, and not worry so much about the consequences of my actions. Every little decision I made didn’t include assuming the worst would happen if I didn’t choose correctly. Something happened along the way, though. At some point in time, it changed.

Now every time I decide something, I have a running list in my head of what can possibly go wrong with each choice. It’s stressful and exhausting. The easiest way to avoid it is to stay in my comfort zone. But not any longer. I’m going to stop being comfortable. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone.

So You Want to Stress Yourself Out?

No. Of course not. What I want to do is learn to get out of my comfort zone in small ways, so that when faced with a situation where I really need to get out of my comfort zone in a big way, I know I can do it. If I’ve done it in the past, I’ll be okay with it and not get panicked. Slowly, I’ll be able to do more that I haven’t done in the past. I’ll be able to break these self-imposed rules that I’ve been subconsciously adhering so stringently to. I won’t be stuck in this comfortable little box that I’ve cornered myself in. At least, in theory this should work.

Baby Steps to Get Out of My Comfort Zone

So how do I do this? Baby steps. Listening to music that I normally wouldn’t listen to on the radio—I went to a boy band concert with my daughter…does that count? ✔ Picking up books that I normally would pass by without a second glance—all this non-fiction I’ve been reading has to count for something, right? ✔ Trying new recipes—wait a minute, I’ve been doing that with our USA tour so…✔✔✔! Driving places I haven’t driven to before—drove down to Ocean City a few weeks ago. ✔ Blogging about things I wouldn’t normally blog about—this whole Better Me Project. ✔ Pole dancing class—just add a ✔ to that. (Don’t judge—it’s hard exercise!)

What’s Left on This List?

A lot. There’s so much I’m nervous to do, despite the strides I’ve made over the past few weeks (and months). I’ve never eaten in a restaurant by myself. I have never gone to a movie alone. I would really like to join a writer’s group and find my tribe. Despite my few futile searches, I haven’t found a group to volunteer for yet. I want to book a trip for somewhere I’ve never been before and deal with it, regardless of my fear of not knowing where to go and what to do.

I live by a set of rules that I’ve created to reduce my anxiety. There’s so much I’m missing by being anxious. It’s all about comfort and fearing the unknown for me. It’s scary as hell to get out of my comfort zone, but I’m going to keep trying. Baby steps.

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No More Eye Rolling (Stop Judging Others)

The Better Me Project—Day 25

I honestly don’t know how my eyes are still in my head. I, um, roll my eyes…a lot. Eye rolling is a main method of communication with me. When they came out with the eye roll emoji on the iPhone, I nearly cried with joy. I roll my eyes more than a teenage girl forced to be seen at the mall with her mother. My eyes roll at my kids at school when they whine and cry over invisible papercuts (if I can’t see it, it doesn’t need a Band-Aid). I roll my eyes at the people who think their perfect snowflake children are the center of the universe (you should see what your kid does behind your back). My eyes roll at my husband when he’s making one of his famous pie charts or bar graphs (it gets him wayyyyy too excited). I roll my eyes at posts on Facebook (It’s Promposal season, folks). If I’m completely honest, I know I’m rolling my eyes when I’m judging others.

***GASP***

There, I admit it…I’m being all judge-y when I roll my eyes. It’s kind of like, “Oh my God are you for real?” Because by rolling my eyes, I’m telling people Look at that clown! I’m so much better than them. I would never do anything that stupid or corny or ridiculous. 

And if I had to guess, I would say that being judgmental is not the path to being a better person who projects positivity and all that jazz out into the universe. I’m pretty certain that being judgmental is probably one of the most negative things you could do. (Besides kicking a puppy or something.)

Judgmental Attitudes Have A Bad Rap

I’ve heard so many negative sayings about being judgmental—“He who is without sin cast the first stone”, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, “While you were busy judging others, you left your closet open and a lot of skeletons fell out”. That last one really gets me—it reminds me that no one is perfect, and every one has something they can be judged for. I think people tend to judge other people critically when they’re afraid of being judged themselves.

And why am I judging others to begin with? Sure, the person that I’m rolling my eyes about might not being doing something that I would personally do myself, but who cares? Because honestly—if it’s not hurting anyone, why does it bother me? This person may or may not be screwing up their child, marriage, career, etc., but unless they ask me or it affects me…it’s none of my business, right? Why judge? I mean, I know I wouldn’t like it if I was the one being judged.

And I KNOW People Are Judging Me

Let’s face it, I bet some people are rolling their eyes at my food blogs and my Better Me Project. I’m willing to put money on the fact there are people out there convinced I’m the worst parent in the world because my daughter’s not getting a Sweet Sixteen party and I don’t hold my son at gun-point to write thank you notes for gifts. There are people rolling their eyes at this very blog post. If I think they’re weird, you better believe they think I’m weird. I can’t let the details of their life bother me, just like they can’t let the details of MY life bother them.

Okay, So Now What?

I have to stop being so…judge-y. But of course, it’s hard to turn off that part of your brain. I think it’s only natural to judge what people are doing, good or bad. Are you co-workers doing a good job? Are your friends good at parenting? Is your hubby being lazy? We are constantly looking at other people and comparing ourselves to them, seeing how they rate on our barometer of doing a good job or being a good person (or whatever it is we are judging them on). It must take a lot of time and energy out of our day to do this. I think we instinctively judge and it is a really difficult habit to break. And maybe an impossible one to break.

So Then What Can I Do?

First…the eye rolls. I made a vow on Day 19 to STOP. Yes. I would force my eyeballs to remain in my head the way God intended them to be—facing forward and not rolling around toward the heavens.

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD THIS HAS BEEN?!?!?!?

Seriously. I think I have given myself a migraine on several occasions over the last few weeks from trying to halt my eye muscles mid-roll. It’s just that soooooooooo much around me makes me want to sigh and bang my head against the wall. I’ve learned early on in life that rolling my eyes is less painful than banging my head against the wall. And now I’m learning that banging my head against the wall would be a much easier habit to break than eye rolling. Yet, I still keep on trying.

Breaking Up With Facebook

I know that initially it is very difficult to get away from our desire to be constantly bombarded with information and updates from our social media sources. It’s probably worse than not drinking for some people. But I can assure you, breaking up (for the most part) with Facebook has made it sooooo much easier to work on this project. It’s difficult to be judgmental when you don’t have anything to judge.

I’ve still had to keep reminding myself not to be judge-y. I have to remind myself that everyone is different and everyone is on a different journey and yada, yada, yada. I’ve been reminding myself that just because don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. (This. Is. So. Hard.)

I’m just taking those deep cleansing breaths whenever I feel the urge to engage in a snarky little eye roll. The meditating has been a huge source of calm for me, believe it or not. It really helps focus me; I’d highly suggest it. I know you think it’s crazy, but…don’t roll your eyes at me.

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Don't Compare yourself to others

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

The Better Me Project—Day 24

Last day of “Lower Your Expectations”…I swear. Damn, that seemed to go on forever, didn’t it? Anyway, I want to talk about one of the easiest ways I’ve found to lower my expectations—don’t compare yourself to others.

That Green-eyed Monster

Jealousy…yikes. I’m sure we can all attest to a time in our lives when we felt jealous, dating way back to childhood. Your brother got the toy you wanted, your sister got to sleep over your grandmother’s house, maybe both of them were allowed to stay up way past your bedtime. When you got a little older, this didn’t end. Maybe your sister got the car you wanted, your cousin’s hair was nicer than yours, your best friend’s boyfriend was sweeter than yours. Even as adults, the green-eyed monster seems to rear its ugly head, despite the fact that we have much more control over our lives than we did when we were seven and seventeen. We drool over the pool our neighbor is putting in, we feel a stab of longing while scrolling over our friend’s vacation pics on Facebook (another reason to limit our time on social media), we wish we could get a kick-ass book deal like an author friend of ours.

A Little Bit of Jealousy is Good

It’s totally normal to feel this way sometimes and despite the fact you’ve heard otherwise, jealousy can create positive outcomes. * Yup, it’s true. It can help you strive for the goals you want to accomplish by giving you incentive. It can also give you direction and ideas on how to accomplish what you want. If I’m jealous of a friend with a book deal, I need to evaluate what she did to get that deal. Being jealous can actually open doors in this way.

But It’s Bad Too

Jealousy can cause a lot of internal conflict (and external as well) when we start comparing ourselves to others and beating ourselves up because we’re not measuring up. Making comparisons to other people can make us feel crappier about ourselves than we already do.

So this is what I vowed to stop doing when I said I would lower my expectations. I would stop thinking of myself in terms of how I stack up to others and instead I would only compare myself to ME. I will ask myself, “Am I doing better than I was yesterday?” instead of “How am I doing in comparison to her?”. The grass may be greener, but it’s always greener when you water it.

Life is a Journey

We are all in different places in our journey. It’s really not fair or productive of me to compare myself to someone on a different journey. I really don’t know what they’ve been through to get there. For most people, all I am seeing is this point in time. I have no idea how they got to this particular part of their life. And I can’t make assumptions that they’re journey has been easy. People might see me and think that I’ve got everything. They don’t have any idea what I’ve been through to get there.

Caveat: While it might seem productive to compare yourself to others who seem WORSE off than you are (kind of as a motivator, like, oh at least I’m not as bad as so-and-so), that’s not a good idea either. Mostly because of that whole “Everyone is on their own journey” thing. Since you don’t know what is going on in someone else’s life, you really can’t evaluate what they’re doing based on yours.

Obviously, it’s not too easy to do this—and sometimes it is a helpful reminder of what we should be thankful of—but the best thing to do is to be mindful of negative thoughts.

I’m Doing the Best That I Can

So, I guess my whole takeaway from Lower Your Expectations is to examine what I’m doing and realize that I really AM doing the best that I can. I need to STOP beating myself up by comparing my life to the lives of others. I need to STOP expecting myself to be Superwoman—I’ve got to SAY NO, ASK FOR HELP, and DO LESS. And I can’t forget the fact I need to STOP seeing my mistakes as permanent failures. They’re opportunities for growth.

I really AM trying and I need to take everything one day at a time, one step at a time. It’s a journey, right? I am going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

*”5 Reasons Why Jealousy is a Good Thing”, Huff Post (7/1/14)

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accepting failure

Failure is the Key to Success

The Better Me Project—Day 23

So a few days ago I introduced the precept of Lowering Expectations. Initially, it sounds like I’m setting myself up for failure, but it turns out that the opposite is true. By lowering my expectations, I’m allowing myself to be successful because in the long run, failure can be the key to success.

Maybe I Sound Nuts, but Hear Me Out

What is failure? According to Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, failure is defined as a lack of success in some effort. It can be one-time or it can be repeated. The thing about failure is that it simply means a lack of success for this particular endeavor at this particular time. It is not necessarily all encompassing. Despite the way we feel when we fail, it does not mean success is out of reach.

In fact, failure is merely a predecessor to success in many cases. You’ve seen those memes about how Edison tried a bazillion times to create the light bulb and how Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected and how Steven Spielberg didn’t get into film school. None of them let their failures stop them and they all eventually became successful. These stories are supposed to boost morale and get people to see that failure isn’t permanent.

Plus, by failing, we get a glimpse into how NOT to accomplish something…making it less likely to repeat the same mistakes in the future. Failure helps us learn how to be successful.

Yeah, Well Failure is Still a Tough Pill to Swallow

It’s really hard to look past the sting of failure when you’re right in the thick of things. It is difficult to pick yourself up after you’ve failed and remind yourself that this failure isn’t a permanent thing. Especially if it is something that you’ve been trying to be successful with repeatedly, or something that you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into.

That’s why it’s good to start off with lower expectations. When you start off with a task you want to be successful at, it’s sometimes best not to expect too much…at first. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put in the same effort you would normally, I’m saying that sometimes you (and I) need to accept that you’re not going to be successful right out of the gate. Success takes time and patience. Sometimes, very rarely, something works on the first try. But mostly life is a game of falling down and getting back up. And falling down. And getting back up. And repeat until you’ve gotten it right.

I Have to Remind Myself of This CONSTANTLY

Confession time. I’m preaching about this, but I am the worst offender. I beat myself up when I fail or even when I don’t do things exactly the way I want to do them. Or when things don’t work out, despite my hard work or incessant planning. As soon as something doesn’t go the way I hoped, I start badmouthing myself and making myself feel terrible. I convince myself that I’m useless and I’ll never get it right (even if it’s my first time trying something). I throw my hands up in the air and say, “That’s it! I’m no good! I quit.”

I am awful to myself when I should be my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this type of behavior. A lot of people beat themselves up over their failure, forgetting that it just means we have to try again.

Lowering My Expectations

So this is where lowering my expectations comes in. I’m subscribing to the motto of “Hope for the best and expect the worst”. That way when things don’t work out, I am not disappointed. But by “hoping for the best” (and trying my best…that’s an important key), I am not dismissing the possibility that I can be successful.

Despite my Better Me Project, things haven’t been completely rosy lately. I’ve had a string of failures followed by some moderate success and then more failure. The part that strikes me as funny is that I’ve actually been trying harder than I ever have in the past, spending more time and effort in my endeavors. And yet, failure. Or at least, not the success I’ve been hoping for.

A lot of times I will find myself replaying events in my head. I’ll start obsessing over my failures, wishing I could go back in time and fix where I went wrong. Sometimes it’s helpful for the future, but mostly, it’s exhausting. It makes me want to climb into bed and pull my covers over my head and wave my white flag.

Pick Myself Up By the Bootstraps

Does anyone ever say that anymore?

I have to say it to myself now. I cannot allow myself to be defined by my lack of success in certain things. What I need to do is remind myself at how far I’ve come and how far I will go if I keep pushing forward, if I keep getting back up when I fall down. I. Need. To. Learn. From. My. Mistakes.

The author of You Are a Badass reminds me that I can do what I want to accomplish if I continue to work toward it, not if I give up on it. I obviously can’t achieve my goals if I give up on them, can I? It’s not like someone else will accomplish them for me. Only I can do this.

Just Keep Swimming

Every time I burn dinner, each time I say the wrong thing, every time I get rejected by BookBub , and each time I’m not the perfect wife and mother, I have a I have to remember life is a process and I can’t get mad at myself or punish myself when I’m not perfect. As much as I want to be successful, I can’t let myself feel like a failure, even when I fail. I will succeed…just not this time. One foot in front of the other, one success (and failure) at a time. I have to be like Dory and just keep swimming. 

 

 

say no and ask for help

Say No and Ask For Help

The Better Me Project—Day 21

The last time I posted, I talked about lowering my expectations. I am often way over my head with things that I plan to do, causing myself anxiety and unnecessary stress. By lowering my expectations, I could really lower my stress level and ultimately become more efficient (and happier). But it’s not so easy to do. It’s going to take a step by step process to allow myself to not expect miracles. I decided that over the course of four days, I would take steps toward this end. Yesterday I vowed to “Do Less”. Today I am going to learn to “Say No and Ask for Help”.

Say No? Are You Smoking Something?

Let me explain to you how painful it is for me to say no. I honestly don’t think my mouth can form the words. In fact, when my kids were little, I hardly ever would actually utter the word no. I would just say “we’ll see”, which the kids quickly came to learn was code for “no”.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to say no, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I realize that I put more stress on myself that way. No only do I expect myself to complete whatever task I won’t say no to, I’m setting myself up for not being able to say no in the future as well. People will start to expect me to say yes. I would disappoint them even more. See how that works? It’s a vicious cycle.

And Ask for Help? Seriously, What Are You Smoking?

Asking for help is akin to admitting defeat to me. If I can’t do something on my own, what good am I to anyone? At least, that’s been my thought process. (And besides the fact that no one really does it the way I want it done…). Okay, so maybe I’m just a little bit of a control freak.

I’d also like to point out that I have a hard time asking for help from my family not only because they do what I’m asking incorrectly (only slight exaggeration—I think they do it on purpose), they complain that I’m nagging. And who needs to hear that they’re being a nag? Especially when 99.9% of the time it’s just easier to do it myself in the first place. Hence, why I end up doing so much.

I may be a little bit of a control freak, but here’s an example. My son used to empty the dishwasher. It would take 97 hours to get him to empty one batch between reminding him and getting told “in a minute”, and him never being home. The dirty dishes would pile up and start stinking up the house because I couldn’t put them in the full dishwasher. Then when he did empty the dishwasher, he would pile half the dishes up on the counter because he never “knows where they go”. I call bull$hit.

I’d Be Even Less Likely to Ask Someone Outside the Family For Help

Admit I can’t do it all? I would feel guilty that I can’t get it done or I can’t help someone else out. I feel guilty and selfish and a whole bunch of other terrible feelings. So guilt + incessant need to be in control= constant stress.

But Yesterday You Vowed to Do Less, Heather…

And so I did. What’s the easiest way to do less? Commit to less. Ask for help more. Ughhhhh. I guess I have no choice, right? I’m going to have to do this.

I had a list as long as my arm on Sunday. For some reason, Sundays aren’t as relaxing as I would like them to be because I am usually beating myself up for slacking off on Saturday and running around like a madman to get it all done on Sunday. And in this case, I had a WHOLE week off and I somehow left everything I needed to do for the last day.

Well, this precept came up on Sunday and I decided I would see if I could execute it. Hubby and Child #2 were bored and wanted to “do something fun”. Remember that list I mentioned? The one as long as my arm? Normally I would say “Sure, I can do everything,” and then I would knock myself out trying to figure out how to please everyone and still get done what I think I need to get done. And I wouldn’t accomplish half of what I wanted to do and I would end up stressed and anxious and generally miserable.

So…I Said No

Sort of. I said they were more than welcome to go out on their own—I wasn’t stopping them. I couldn’t spare the time to “do something fun” because I had too much to do. BUT, if anyone wanted to help me out, I WOULD be able to spare time. See what I did there? I tried to both say no AND ask for help. 

Believe it or not, hubby stepped in. He folded the towels for me. A tiny little thing, but it was enough to offer me some relief. And then later he cooked dinner instead of leaving it on me. I still didn’t get everything on my list done—in fact, I didn’t even get close, but then again, I’ve got to learn to start lowering my expectations. Do less. Say No. Ask for Help.

This May Just Work

The good news is, on Sunday I didn’t have to have a nervous breakdown to make my point. I had to say no and ask for help. It didn’t feel as icky as I thought it would either. I didn’t have heart palpitations and break out into cold sweats. I think I could even do it again in the future.

Will that work every time? Probably not. It probably won’t even work next time (see, I’m lowering my expectations already). But I’ve made a start with my  first “just say no” campaign. I think I would make Nancy Reagan proud.

 

 

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Lower Your Expectations (and Do Less)

The Better Me Project—Day 20

Like so many of us, I can get completely overwhelmed at times. My list of what I need to do and what I expect of myself never seems to end. Home projects, responsibilities and book ideas all seem to pile up at alarming rates, the list growing longer than the hours in a day. (If I’m honest, the list is probably longer than the number of years I have left to live on this earth.) I want to accomplish so much and at the same time, I want to do everything right. But that voice in the back of my head is screaming at me, “Lower your expectations, Heather! This precept of Lower Your Expectations is actually four parts (and four days) long. Today is the first part—Do Less.

Do Less

I really should start listening to that nagging voice that’s telling me to lower my expectations. It may hold the secret to my complete and utter happiness. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it think it may be on to something. It seems crazy to tell yourself to lower your expectations, though, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t most people think you should expect more to get more? If you set the bar low, you won’t work as hard. And you could actually make yourself fail if you don’t expect to succeed. Like if you expect to fail your driver’s test, you could psychologically cause yourself to fail the test, right? If you don’t have faith in something you want to achieve, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy to not accomplish the goal. Why bother to tell yourself that you can do anything if you don’t expect to do it?

Because you shouldn’t expect to do everything. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean that you should. Sometimes Less is More.

You Can Do Anything, But You Can’t Do Everything

No wiser words have ever been spoken. I saw this meme on Pinterest the other day and it hit me so hard that I couldn’t breathe for a minute. Okay, slight exaggeration, but you get it. Sometimes you stumble upon something that is so relevant to your current situation that it stops you dead in your tracks. Words that can turn your head around and make you really evaluate what you’re doing.

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately. Forget both ends, I’ve been burning it at all ends.

Not only do I need to blog daily about The Better Me Project, I have to actually carry out the precepts that I’m talking about. I’m trying to start an online magazine for writers. I have three books half finished right now. There are at least another two book ideas banging around in that cluttered brain of mine. I’ve been researching SEO, Pinterest algorithms and other internet nonsense in order to make my blog more visible and reach more readers. I’m writing a book proposal based on this project. We’re still doing the The Bad Mommy Cooks the USA tour. I want to put all those recipes and disasters into a cookbook. Oh, and I have to go to work and clean my house and feed my family and the dog and work out and generally make sure everything doesn’t fall apart in the meantime.

Yikes!

I do this to myself A LOT. I mentally catalog a list of what I NEED to accomplish that is so unrealistic I have no choice but to fail. I’m going to fail at something on that list, if not everything on that list, because it’s too much. I cannot logically expect myself to achieve any of it—Superwoman herself couldn’t do all that. (Somehow, my expectations of myself are more than I would expect of Superwoman.) And while I have to admit that I’m pretty damn awesome and I do get a lot done, I’m still setting myself up for inevitable failure.

I’m sure there’s so psychological reason that I do this, but I don’t think I should waste any time trying to figure that out. What I need to do is STOP. Well, not stop altogether. I need to lower my expectations and allow myself to DO LESS.

How Can I Do Less?

Prioritizing. Ugh. It’s like a dirty word. How does one prioritize exactly? I mean, if I make a list of things I need (want) to get done, everything on that list is important. Certainly there are things that MUST get done immediately—like eating dinner—but in my mind, everything else on that list is pretty damn important. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put it on the list in the first place. Duh. And sure, some items on the list are dependent on others (like I can’t schedule my blogs before I write them), but how do I say, “okay, this item comes before that item?”

The best way for me to do this is to evaluate my goals. What is it that I’m looking to accomplish? And on a hierarchy of needs, which goals are most important? Obviously, I want to keep my dog and family alive, so feeding them and making grocery lists need to be done. Along with laundry and going to work so I can make money to do laundry and feed my family. I mean, it’s one thing to disappoint my adoring fans everywhere if I don’t put out a post every day—it’s another not to go to work and have clean clothes.

So yeah, it’s all important, but what isn’t helping me accomplish my goals?

I started this Better Me Project because I truly wanted to mold myself into the best version of myself that I could possibly be. And not only for myself, but for my family and friends and pretty much anyone who ever had to deal with the “not better” version of me. Right now, this project is at the top of my list. Therefore, my blog posts and actually doing the project is one of my most important goals at the moment. Stuff like working on my newsletter and my running and the four thousand book ideas that are swirling in my head need to take a back burner. So does marketing and figuring out how to get more readers. I have to actually complete the project before I worry about that.

These are all things I want to accomplish…eventually. But I also need to take this one step at a time. And for me, that’s REALLY hard. I want it all and I want it yesterday.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

I think the most difficult part of not being able to see my goals accomplished as quickly as I want them to be is the fact that I am seriously worried that I won’t get to them at all. Our clocks are all ticking and we never know when we’re going to run out of time. It’s scary to think that we don’t know what we will have time to accomplish in this lifetime. Just thinking about that causes me anxiety.

Yet, if I lower my expectations and realize that I am not a failure if I don’t do it all, it gives me comfort. I have to allow myself to take a break when I feel overwhelmed. Like with this blog. Three weeks of non-stop blogging with all the rest of my responsibilities is quite a load to take on. Did you notice, no Better Me project post yesterday? I didn’t do it ***gasp***

I can’t beat myself up for needing to hit the pause button for a day or two or ten. I have to remember that I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I am doing the best I can do.

I CAN do ANYTHING. I just won’t do EVERYTHING.

(I’ll see you soon blogging world…just maybe not tomorrow…)

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