It’s mid-way through your week, and already you have realized your to-do list was completely unrealistic…. again.
The bullet points for items yet to be completed far outweigh the checkmarks for what’s been done.
It’s a beautiful day outside, too. But you don’t remember the last time you felt the sun on your skin.
Instead of hearing the balmy breeze tickle the wind chimes on your porch, all you can hear is the sound of the phone ringing. Again. With someone else needing something. Or wanting to know what you’ve gotten done on the project so far.
You cannot remember ever being this stressed and pressured before. It feels terrible. But not as terrible as all the guilty “should have’s” you’ve been piling on yourself inside.
Now you feel trapped in a cloud of self-judgment that never seems to go away. And what’s worse, you worry deep-down that you deserve to suffer like this for being so “unproductive.”
What do you do?
First off, I want to assure that there’s nothing further to do.
Removing self-judgment and dealing with the stress at hand is not another line item to add to your overwhelming list.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
It’s time to do less.
I just said it.
The antidote to total overwhelm and shut-down from too much to do… is to pay attention to the signals your body, mind and heart are giving you that say:
It’s time to do less, thank you very much.
In other words…
It’s time to prioritize PRESENCE over PERFORMANCE.
Turn your phone off. Shut down your laptop or tablet. Make yourself a cup of tea and go sit on the porch. And feel the sun warm your skin as you listen to the sound of the wind chimes.
I know that might sound like total pie-in-the-sky thinking:
Actually spend time “just being” and enjoying your life… when the deadlines are piling up and stress is at an all-time high? Aren’t you at risk for missing out on something really important?
But nothing is actually more important right now.
You see, becoming truly present to the moment is the only thing that can disrupt the “I must get insane amounts of stuff done in order to be a good human being” thought process that most modern societies pressure us to subscribe to.
Because isn’t that the real issue?
That if you don’t get it all done, according to the deadlines originally set, you fear you’ll be a BAD wife/daughter/employer/employee/ministry leader/community volunteer/etc.?
Yet the very notion of being “bad” for not getting an unreasonable amount of stuff accomplished in an unreasonable timeframe comes from a mentality that is exclusively oriented toward performance.
Performance judges your worth based on what you DO.
Presence invites you to simply be who you ARE.
I am reminded of Exodus 3:14, where God says to Moses, “I AM Who I AM is speaking to you.”
God, apparently, has no problem assigning His own worth based on Who He is. He also has no problem with spending time in stillness. Yet we as His creation and His children have so much trouble following His lead on this!
When you are deeply present to your lived reality…
You don’t have a good-bad rubric by which to judge yourself anymore. Because you aren’t focused on achieving anything. You are focused on receiving what is actually happening and existing naturally and harmoniously with the people and situations around you.
Which probably sounds like either a nightmare, or a recipe for the total dissolution of your entire life… depending on how you think. 🙂
Yet in reality presence won’t destroy your fragilely-balanced schedule. It will actually save you from it.
The problem comes in because we tend to think if we drop our “doing-doing-doing” routine for 5 minutes, and become deeply present, we’ll fall behind.
And what could be worse than falling behind even further when we’re already so behind?
But this is a lie designed to keep you stuck on the gerbil wheel.
The opposite is actually true.
When you deliberately “opt-out” of performance culture (even for a short time), and become deeply present, you allow yourself to rest and reset to your natural state.
In that natural state… your energy, ideas and optimism will naturally rise. You’ll find yourself sitting down to get things done because you feel energetic and simply enjoy the sense of accomplishment.
Your to-do list will get checked off in half the time, with half the effort and 0% of the resistance you felt before when you were sad, frustrated and (possibly) physically ill… but somehow pushing yourself through.
Whenever my clients feel stuck, and feel like they’re just “not getting enough done,” I ask them to listen to their own narrative and check themselves.
Are they being fully present? Or judging themselves according to a performance model?
I invite you to do the same.