The road to self grace is not an easy one. I’m learning ways to forgive myself daily and turn my inner critic into my inner cheerleader. Recently, I’ve realized just how important taking a break is for my own overall health. In our pursuit of the lives we want, we often forgo “the breaks” in our planning process. We want “this” now, we want “that” then and it all depends on doing “these” things in the meantime, to make it all look “this” way. Sure, anything is possible, in fact, everything is possible, but if we can take breaks at work, take rests in our exercise routines, and take vacations from our lives, why can’t we afford ourselves breaks in our ultimate pursuits of happiness?
Here are three reasons why we don’t give ourselves breaks (and why we should change our minds on them).
1. We are trying too hard to have it all right now.
There are many dilemmas to the “having it all right now” dream. But one major dilemma is, we don’t know what “all” contains – and we definitely are not as aware of what “all” costs. While binge watching a certain teen soap opera, I gained a real understanding of the “having it all” dilemma. If someone asked you what having it all was, your answer would differ greatly if asked at 16 years old and then at 32 years old. So what if, at 16, you got “it all”? What exactly would you do with yourself for the other three quarters of your life? Thank Goodness I didn’t get everything I asked for at 16. Thank Goodness I didn’t get everything I asked for last year even! “All” is relative. Breaks are needed to compensate for the wrong turns, the trials, and the times we all need to change our minds. And at many points, we NEED to change our minds.
2. We are misery and we love company.
When I find myself discontent with areas in my life, I take on a bad habit. I search my inner circle to find people who I can be equally yoked in misery with. I’m not happy at work but, instead of taking a break, acknowledging and receiving my truth that I want to do something else, I instead, set out on a search for a coworker or friend who hates their job as much as I hate mine. We come together and bandage our dissatisfaction with mutual bemoaning. It hurts so good! We rant by the water cooler, we back bite the boss, we get that extra drink at happy hour because “we earned it.”
But what if, before we let out that proverbial sigh in our best buddies’ cubicle, we took a break? What if we said, out loud and only to ourselves, I don’t want to do this! And let it hang in the air as truth for a while. Maybe taking a break from seeking out misery companions will give us the time and head space we need to be honest with ourselves about our mistakes and desires. When we seek refuge in shared misery, we’re not only nursing our own fears of change, we’re taking on other peoples fears. We call this practice being cautionary because “they” call it being cautionary. But let’s be honest, when we are uncomfortable, the one thing that makes us feel better is knowing that someone else is uncomfortable too. It’s a terrible truth, but it’s the truth. So, the next time you feel the need to validate your misery with the misery of someone else, STOP. Give yourself a break to say what you are really thinking and feeling. Maybe then you will start finding the courage to move in the direction only meant for you.
3. We “To-Do list” our lives
Too often my day started with me sitting at my desk, pulling out my notebook, and making my to-do list. It starts innocently enough, but soon, the list has 25 items on it and counting. The premise is very well meaning. I want to be productive so I set out tasks and mark them off hoping to feel that sense of accomplishment as I do so. But, by 3pm, this well-meaning accomplishment booster becomes an itemized list of ways I failed today. See, we often set out to do without making room for what life is setting out to be done to us. We don’t update our list when we get a call that needs our immediate attention, when it takes us twice as long to get home in traffic, or when we’re greeted at home by an unexpected project via our spouses, children, or families. We have our list and we’re sticking to it. And when the day ends and we did four of the 25 items, we go to bed feeling awful.
When I realized that my to-do list was quickly becoming the albatross around my neck, I decided to take a break from it. Until I could make a list that was reasonable, and did not leave me feeling like I failed at more things than I accomplished, I did away with making the list entirely. Of course, this caused chaos in my organization, but it also allowed me to see what the most important tasks were in any given day. I found that the to-do list put paying my credit card bill, buying a birthday card, picking up a loaf of bread, and closing a case at work as equally important tasks. So at the end of the day, even if I paid the bill and closed the case, I would kick myself about not getting that card and that loaf of bread. Clearly robbing myself of the sense of satisfaction the other two tasks should have given me. I have returned to list making since this revelation, but, I now limit every to-do list to five items. When those are done, I take my break, and make my next list of five items, if I want. Sometimes the first five is just enough. Don’t set out to accomplish more than you can in one day. More than you can is always more than you should. We need the small victories to get through life. And we need space to receive whatever the universe throws at us in the interim.
So join me in taking a break from being so goal-oriented. Enjoy the scenery on this journey. The sights are lovely and the water is perfect.