Ever heard the saying, I’m spreading myself too thin? I always get several mental pictures dancing in my head when I hear that – a little gel man, you know the type you get for a few tickets at the arcade, pulled so far out that his only choices are to spring violently back into place or to snap in two; a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with so little peanut butter and jelly on it that you can’t even taste it; a piece of clay rolled out over and over and over until the edges are so paper thin that if you were to try to pick it up to do anything with it, it would rip in an instant.
I’ve felt like that quite a few times in my life. It’s the result of trying to manage everything that I need to do with everything that I want to do and trying to keep everyone around me happy at the same time.
At first, it feels great to be able to say that I’m juggling all these different things, like I’m some super hero. It feels like a compliment when people ask, “how do you find time to sleep?” The busier we are, the more useful we feel. Often times, it has more to do with the image than anything else.
But the hype of feeling invincible never lasts long before we become painfully aware of just how human we really are. Trying to be everything to all people is exhausting. It’s also impossible. Instead of giving our whole selves to a few important things, we end up giving little bits of ourselves to lots of things.
We push ourselves to try harder, to do better, instead of taking a step back.
I’ve been there enough times in my life to know that trying harder doesn’t work. I can always muster up just enough energy to push myself for another week or so, but it’s not worth it. In the end I’ve lost valuable time and perspective of what matters in life.
The good news is that you don’t have to stay there. If you’re worn out, or if you’re spreading yourself too thin, you can stop now and get back on the track of peace and joy. You are worth it!
You’ll begin to find the meaning and purpose you’ve been looking for when you shed the weight of all you’ve been carrying and begin to focus on what’s right in front of you.
Here’s the best ways I’ve found to get started on the track to stress-free, purpose driven, joyful life:
- Learn to say no – Wow, is this a big one! Saying yes to everything and everyone is one of the quickest ways to get your own self in a mess. It’s so easy to think saying “yes” to people is the right thing to do, that because you’re helping someone out, it must be good. But, the reality is that it leaves you feeling tired and bitter. Is someone asking you to volunteer on a day you really need to be resting? You can say no. Is someone asking you to hang out who you don’t feel like is a good influence in your life? You can say no. Is someone asking you to participate in an event or be on a committee? You can say no. Their agenda isn’t more important than yours. If something doesn’t work for you, say no. In the moment, and especially the first time, it’s hard to do. But over time, and with practice, you will become an expert at listening to yourself and saying yes to what works for you and no to what doesn’t. If you find saying no is too difficult or you have trouble thinking in the moment about whether something is good for you or not, say something like, “let me think about it and I’ll get back with you.” Just because someone asks, doesn’t mean you have to give them an answer on the spot.
- Prioritize – Take time to prioritize your life. What’s a priority today may be different than what it was a year ago or even a month ago. Take inventory of your life. Organize the activities and responsibilities you have in order of importance. Is there something that’s getting in the way of your top priorities? If so, move that thing out of the way. Decide for yourself what is most important in your life in this season right now, and stick with it. Don’t be pulled away from your priorities by momentary things. This is where saying “no” comes in handy. If something would be a distraction from your priorities, say “no.”
- Take care of yourself – This should be high up on your priority list, because if you are not taking care of you, everything else will eventually begin to fall apart. Take time to rest and get rejuvenated. Get plenty of sleep to be able to take on the next day, eat well so you can have energy, and stay active so you can keep moving. Spend time doing the things that fill you up. Do something creative, take a bubble bath, or go for a walk. Practice meditation to clear your mind and stay centered. Treat yourself as you would want someone you love to treat themselves. Be kind to yourself. Prioritize yourself, and you will find that many of the other things in your life will begin to fall more easily into place.
- Pursue peace – make a choice to stop pursuing what the world calls success and shift your focus to pursuing peace. The world is a hectic, chaotic place. It’s easy to get off balance and forget who you are. Get back to what brings you true joy. Of course, we all have work to do and responsibilities to take care of, but at the end of the day, you can still have peace. Stay on the path that keeps your spirit at rest and joyful. Anything that threatens to ruin your peace is not worth your time. Prioritize those things that bring peace to your soul.
Practice these four things and you will get your power back, your time back, your joy back, your peace back, your LIFE back! It all begins with the simple choice to give up the image of invincibility and the need to make everyone around you happy. When you begin to say no to things that don’t match up with your goals and prioritize what’s important in your life, you will have more influence, and you’ll have the energy to do all the tasks set before you. You will find in peace the very things you were searching for in the busyness and chaos.
You will find yourself again.