Back in September, I started my year of wellness with only one real goal: to write a blog post about my journey once a month. Six months in, I lost momentum. Skipping one month turned into skipping another and then writing the blog just fell off my radar.
Now I can easily tell you what “caused” it. I can tell you about the multiple looming deadlines at work or the travel that took me away several weekends or the writing class that consumed several of my evenings. And I wouldn’t be lying but I also wouldn’t be telling you the whole truth. I did have a choice, over and over again.
But in a way, it felt like I didn’t. It felt like those times when I drive to meet someone and end up taking the route to work until I realize I’m going the wrong way. Sometimes my attempts at building new habits are thwarted by well-worn ruts.
I made a vow at the beginning of this journey to not focus on perfection but to learn from my missteps and better understand the barriers that keep me from being my best self. I decided to take a deeper look at what happened, not from a place of judgment but from a place of inquiry.
I got curious about why I so easily gave up on the monthly writing assignment. Because while it may seem like a small thing, I think it’s akin to anything I want in life but do not do.
Was something holding me back? What could I learn from this that I could apply to doing things differently in the future? Now that you are on the edge of your seat, here’s what I came up with.
1. Energy, not time, is the most finite resource.
I trick myself regularly into believing that the reason I can’t or don’t do something is because I don’t have the time. But one thing I am really good at is wasting time. I will literally watch a movie that is on cable TV (with commercials!) when I own the movie on DVD. Time isn’t the problem. But having the energy to do what I want when I have the time…now that’s another story.
Looking back on the last four months, I definitely was more time starved than average (see paragraph #2). But what I felt in those months was a growing stress and depletion of energy.
There are no regular operating system updates for the iNicole7. I can’t be upgraded or traded in or replaced when I quit running as fast as I usually do. The only thing I can do when life starts getting full of activity and bogged down with stress is to unplug and reboot. With so much going on, I needed to protect my energy and take a few things off my list so I could have the energy to handle what was happening in the moment. Which leads me to my second a-ha learning.
2. Balance in life is a moving target.
I’m a big believer that how you spend your time is what makes your life. Based on that premise, I try to fill my time with what I value the most…relationships, wellness, writing, learning, nature and simplicity. Within each of these things are multiple activities that I am interested in participating in. What I realize is that I can’t do it all at the same time. I don’t think balance in life looks like a scale with two sides. I think it looks more like a dartboard.
Work and life. Or motherhood and life. Or whatever “thing” you want to balance with life. I think life itself is what I am constantly trying to balance. And often as soon as I get it into perfect balance, something happens. A hot project at work. A sick loved one. A spontaneous weekend road trip.
I’m learning to cut myself some slack. I no longer base my worth on my ability to juggle it all. Sure I didn’t get my blog written but there are so many life experiences I’ve had over the last few months that I wouldn’t trade and writing was one thing I couldn’t fit into the bullseye. Instead of always trying to add more and throwing everything out of balance, I’m trying to focus on what it is I need in the now and know I can always come back to other things in time.
3. Making a promise means more than setting a goal.
Setting a goal feels like something that I either do at work or something that in my personal life I’m going to have to “work” at. It tends to feel tedious. I’ve recently started thinking about goals as promises to myself and it has changed the narrative. I realize that keeping promises to other people is one of the tenets I live by. So why do I keep bailing on myself? Blowing off things here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal until they add up to so many moments that I stop believing in my ability to follow through with anything.
Making promises matters to me. They are the currency that I deposit into my character. And when I break them, it loses value. I try hard not to make promises to other people that are unrealistic but I hadn’t thought about how often my promises to myself are. Maybe the promise of writing a blog post once a month for a year is too lofty? I hardly know what next week might hold much less a year from now. What I really want is to work on being a better writer and to do that I need to write more often. The promise could be to write every day for 10 minutes or once a week for 1 hour. If that turns into a monthly blog post, then so be it. If not, I still keep my promise but I do it in a way that feels more realistic and manageable.
There will probably always be a part of me that wants to do it all and be it all and of course all right now. It’s a Type A hard wiring within me that’s difficult to completely unplug. But now I look at that part of myself with a sense of humor. It’s usually in the form of an old Southern woman sitting on the porch in a rocking chair saying, “Oh honey child, where do you think you’ve got to get in such a dang hurry? Come sit on this porch and drink some iced tea with me.”
And I’ll be dammed if it doesn’t feel good to spend an afternoon with her.