I felt a little hand on my shoulder at 5am this morning and the breath of my son Josh’s voice in my ear.
“Wake up Mom, it is time to go downstairs!”
The morning sky was still dark. The birds were still snoring in their nests.
I dragged myself out of bed and headed straight for the coffee pot, brewing some fresh Peet’s.
I knew today was a doozy: a triple crown of school picture day, snack helper duty, and show and share. This was bound to bring up a whole host of issues for my wee ones, which of course it did:
- agony over choosing the perfect thing to bring for show and share
- agony over taking a bath first thing in the morning
- agony over choosing the perfect clothes for the school picture
- agony over getting the right socks/shoes/lunch boxes/bags of snacks out the door and into the car
Of course we had already talked about most of these things the night before, but nevertheless, we revisited everything in the morning dawn.
By 8:30, I was ready for a nap.
Then I got to the office, where there was a big stack of to-dos, that included book forwards to write, speaking gigs to negotiate, sales pages to create, emails to answer, clients to coach and press interviews to participate in.
All of it is juicy, and I feel privileged to do it.
And it overwhelms me sometimes.
No matter how much I parse, plan, purge, and prioritize, there always seems to be more to to do than I can possibly handle. My husband now travels for his business six days a week.
Sometimes I just want to rent a hotel room in town and sleep for two days straight.
But most days, despite glorious imperfection, occasional personal heartache and significant challenges, I really love my life.
If I measured my success by some mythological standard of perfectly balanced workload/perfectly prepared children and perfectly impressive work output, I would be miserable.
These are the questions I ask myself instead of “Do I have work-life balance?”
Do I enjoy my life while I am living it?
When you step outside in the morning, do you take a deep breath and marvel at the wonder that the sun keeps coming up each day? Do you watch your kids (or pets!) intently and notice how perfect they are in their own quirky way? Do you ever look at your bank account and marvel that one person, let alone many, were motivated enough to give you some of their hard-earned money? Do you reflect on how amazing it is that the random thoughts in your mind can come out through your fingers, onto a magical virtual page that, when published, reaches tens of thousands of people, and is indexed by the Big Google God in the Sky so anyone, anywhere with access to the search box can find you?
If you hate most of what you are doing most of the time, and miss the beauty of a full moon or the smile of a stranger because you are so busy rushing around, you may want to slow down and pay attention.
As Josh told me the other day:
“You Anglos are always rushing.”
Do I have a very short list of people I make a priority, without exception?
The more our friend count stacks up on social media sites, and the more our client base grows, the harder it becomes to give sustained, quality support to those in your network. Emails linger in the inbox, and @ replies go unanswered on Twitter.
But some relationships need to be nurtured every day, without exception. Like with your main squeeze, your kids, your favorite animals, and your close crew of friends.
I will not go a day without talking with Desiree. She is my rock, my therapist, my co-conspirator and my best friend, and has been for 25 years. My kids get my full-contact attention, even when I have a big pile of things to do. I will interrupt my schedule if my husband calls from the road and needs to talk. I make sure to connect with Michele and Charlie and Jonathan because they are so crucial to my mental health, and happiness, and business success. My parents are turning 76 this year. I make sure to call them regularly, and take trips to California to visit them. I want them to know I love and miss them dearly.
Do I “stay on my own yoga mat” as yoginis say, and not compare myself to others who are smarter, more productive, more witty, more sexy and more funny?
I am lucky enough to hang out with some pretty smart and accomplished people. At times, their level of productivity overwhelms me. They negotiate great book deals, furiously write blog posts, close new business deals, and make time to eat right and work out. When I have a moment of compare and despair, as my friend Martha Beck says, I immediately step back and revisit my own vision of success.
I read this quote on Facebook yesterday, attributed to the Buddhist antidote to jealousy:
“May your success and good fortune continue and increase. May your happiness never end.”
This is so simple, so pure, so elegant. May you, and those you admire, have never-ending success, good fortune and happiness. Ahhhh.
Do I wield a “No Axe” with great gusto, cutting unenergizing, unprofitable and unstrategic activities from my calendar?
Charlie Gilkey wrote a great post explaining the criteria of Opportunity, Visibility and Cash Flow. If your daily activities do not fall into these three areas (including nurturing critical relationships), it is time to raise your no axe and whack them off. Saying no is one of the best things you can do for your business, and your mental health. As Charlie tells me on a daily basis, when I learn to say no to activities that don’t serve my higher purpose, I say yes to things that do.
Can I see the meaning in the work I do and do I celebrate it?
On Saturday, I participated in Laid Off Camp Phoenix, a 100% volunteer un-conference for the laid off folk in Phoenix, Arizona. My session was on developing a side hustle. I asked for a few volunteers in the audience to do some brainstorming on potential side hustles. A woman named Kim shot her hand up right away. Kim is a laid off event planner who recently moved to the Phoenix area. She has a long history of success, and was looking for a way to do more of the work she loves. The other participants had all kinds of ideas to grow her business. She left the session overflowing with enthusiasm. I talked with her in the hall after the session.
“I kind of forgot who I was there for awhile,” she said. “Now I remember.”
These moments give me chills. They are exactly why I do the work that I do, despite the challenges.
Are things a bit better today than they were yesterday?
I have a lot of big personal and work development projects: a healthier and more fit body, improved and up-to-date administrative and financial processes, a new book, a new body of speaking work, a new library of educational products and services.
The big list is overwhelming. But each day, I take a small step toward completing it.
I am not going to the gym every day. But I am training mixed martial arts every Tuesday and Thursday night. I am trying to look at my 44-year old curvy body with love and not compare my soft abs to the washboard of my twenties. Zero body fat, while a lovely daydream, will not make me happy. Moving a little more, eating a little less and remembering the joy of sweating will ease my body into a state of better health.
And while I want to have my book sold, my products done and my administrative ends tied up right now, I am optimistic that they are one step closer today than they were yesterday.
When I lay my head on my pillow tonight, I will not reflect on all the things I am not, and all the things that I did not do.
I enjoyed living my life today while I lived it.
That is enough.