This year I am excusing myself from anything that is not essential or brazenly beneficial. And I class resolutions as non-essential and for me, not particularly beneficial. I’ve decided to try living a life free from societal rules, pressures, urgency and expectations. I am no longer subscribing to all the extra B.S. that’s put upon us as entrepreneurs, creatives, parents, adults, members of society, etc. I’ve never been very good at it anyway and I’m sick of trying and sucking at it. Let the spinning plates fall where they may, I’m taking off my human suit and all the guilt and stress that comes with it.
So, screw resolutions, sod off perfect posts and definitely fuck the expectations and judgement of others. They are all just unnecessary and largely optional pressures.
Do you think Mad Max had to contend with this crap? Nope. He was too busy just trying to survive in the dangerous outback. Okay, I’m not quite Mad Max… yet. Though it is starting to resemble the wild west out there.
My point is that we’ve got enough to deal with already, we don’t need to add anything extra to the list. Especially other people’s nonsense.
Just getting up every day, showering, getting dressed and eating something other than cake has become a struggle on par with life with a newborn. Nothing is going to plan, every day brings new challenges and there is global insanity happening around us the likes of which we’ve not seen… like ever.
But I’m not actually complaining.
Sure, I have loads of frustrations with the new world. But those aside, my new approach of working to silence the external influences, lessen the self-inflicted pressure, and part with a false sense of urgency has noticeably lightened my load and increased my productivity. I’m starting to recognise my ability to cope as quite impressive. And, on days when I’m feeling good, I enjoy devising creative solutions to the daily challenges. It can be pretty interesting and satisfying when it works.
Of course, on days when I’m failing as a parent, partner, leader or human generally, it can feel like I’m being buried alive. But those days are becoming less-common occurrences now that I’m disconnecting from the noise and eliminating the optional pressures.
A Better Way
I hate self-help guides. This is not one. But I do want to share how I am making the aforementioned adjustments because they are certainly easier said than done.
Learning to let go of the external expectations that I can’t control and to change my own expectations to more manageable ones, has required a concerted effort. It’s not easy to silence that tough inner voice that is always telling me to do more and do better. It takes daily work to reprogramme that message to “you’ve done enough and you’ve done it well”. And it takes even more effort to recognise that often, those external pressures we feel may actually be perceived narratives of our own creation – which means they are ours to part with.
I’ve made a conscious decision to let myself off the hook with all the things that I suck at, rather than trying harder or beating myself up – those methods didn’t appear to help. It may seem unintuitive to you, but so far it’s working for me.
I’ve stopped stressing about how my son is doing with homeschooling. It’s been the source of much agony for us both. The truth is that I hate homeschooling as much as he does and I don’t think it’s terribly effective for us. I’ve given up on trying to follow lesson plans. Instead, I’m finding new ways of helping him find contentment, adjust to his circumstances, appreciate what he has and be nice to be around, as his mood can make or break my days.
I’m happy for you if your little homeschooler is acing his breakfast quiz, but I’ve probably unfollowed you. I just don’t need comparisons. I’m doing it the way that works for us and I feel better about life already. And so, does my kid!
Work-wise, I’m giving myself a break too. I’m focusing on quality rather than quantity and I’m giving myself longer deadlines with more flexibility. I’ve come to realise that most of the urgency and stress we feel is largely contrived and of our own doing. If we are driven by imposter syndrome, fear of losing our jobs or a need to please then we will always set unrealistic deadlines or take on unnecessary workloads.
I’m hoping that you, my community and colleagues, will understand that me choosing to work in a healthier more balanced way isn’t a special circumstance just for me. As I see it, this is the only way forward for all of us, because if we don’t start taking good care of ourselves now and creating a more realistic way and pace of working, sooner than later, we’ll break. We simply can’t go on working the way we’ve been doing it. Maybe we never should have. It wasn’t really working that well, after all, was it?
Removing the Unnecessary
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions and I’m far from dry this January. Who needs more things to fail at or feel guilty about? The only promises I’ve made to myself are to try to lean into the good stuff and let go of the unhelpful, to be kinder to myself and let myself off the hook for all this… stuff, and to do what I can to ease into what is guaranteed to be another marathon of a year. I deserve a little kindness, so I’m giving it to myself.
For me, being kind to myself means being conscious about what does and doesn’t make me feel good, then minimising the latter. This meant cutting down on my phone time and social media. I’m not realistically able to leave it altogether, but in order to stay and still feel good, there had to be been a culling and it had to be severe. If you weren’t bringing me joy, you had to go. It’s not personal. You do you. I just can’t.
As I let virtual ‘friends’ go, I refocused my energy toward my real pals. I’ve worked hard over the years to cultivate a small group of good people who share my spirit. Their only expectation of me is to be me and to show up – so I am and I do. I’ve found that this is the key to sanity and to feeling way-less alone on this rollercoaster ride called life. We’re in near-constant contact these days and it’s a much better use of my time then scrolling through Instagram and comparing my life to people I don’t know or like.
In the End
By turning down the noise I’ve found that I’m able to distribute my limited energy better and focus more. Interestingly this has resulted in me actually caring more about what I do and thus doing a better job of it. These changes have also positively affected my relationship with my family who are benefiting from a calmer more consistent version of me (mostly).
It’s worth noting that this is not a perfect plan and I am not cured of all stresses, but I am starting to find a better balance that gives me a greater capacity to achieve the essentials and keep my wits. Also, this is not meant to be a blueprint for others. This is my journey and my findings. I’m just sharing it with you because maybe it never occurred to you that there was a more suitable way for you to do life. A way that plays to your strengths and removes avoidable pressures.
Recently I’ve witnessed too many of my peers and friends killing themselves in an attempt to maintain ‘normalcy’ in total abnormality. They try to meet unrealistic expectations and then beat themselves up when they fall short. This approach wasn’t working at the best of times, but it’s a recipe for disaster in the current climate. I promise you that nothing terrible will happen if your kid isn’t first in the class or you don’t respond to that email right now, but I am certain that you will eventually break if you don’t adjust your approach.