Having it all posts get me every time.
Live the life of your dreams? Follow your bliss? Reach your full potential? Sign me up for that!
I think I’ve always wanted it all.
It started harmlessly enough. Favorite color? Blue, oh and yellow, and green. Can’t decide which club to join in school? Join them all! Study music or psychology? Both, please.
I like to think of it as being multi-passionate and ambitious, but that would be leaving out a huge piece of the story. In reality, this is part of a vicious cycle. You see, each step I took was another set of expectations and comparisons to contend with.
Somewhere along the way, the desire to explore became a binding agreement with the universe to set my mind to (and accomplish) everything. Having it all meant doing and being it all. Simultaneously. For everyone. Oh, and perfectly (don’t forget that part).
So my charming elementary curiosity gave way to a respectable adolescent over-achievement before finally becoming a crippling quest to become superwoman.
Keep the house perfectly clean. Keep yourself in perfect shape. Make perfectly balanced meals with organic vegetables you grow in your backyard. Host the party of the year. Have the perfect marriage and perfectly behaved kids. Be at the top of your game in your career. Learn a new language. Quit your job and travel the world. Maybe you should become a photographer. Do it all with a perfect smile (and hair).
This got exhausting – FAST.
Having it all this way is like trying to put together a giant puzzle. Scratch that. It’s like trying to sort through hundreds of mixed-up puzzles without so much as a picture on the box to go by.
You’re left wondering which pieces go where, and you don’t even know what it is supposed to look like in the end. This didn’t stop me from trying, though. Move this piece here, shave a little off here, nudge this piece just a bit, and push them all together to make it fit.
The end result wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, and I wondered where I went wrong. Wasn’t this supposed to be my bliss?
As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t know the secret to making all of the pieces fit. Sometimes they just don’t. You can’t be in two places at once, and there are only so many directions you can be pulled before you’re stretched too thin.
I thought if I couldn’t get all the pieces to fit together I was failing somehow. I felt utterly defeated.
Then I had a breakdown breakthrough sitting in my office at the end of yet another draining day, worrying about pleasing everyone while still making it home at a decent hour, wearing the pants that just don’t fit after two kids (and beating myself up about it), and wondering how I could gather up the strength to come back and do it all again the next day.
Out of nowhere, I started laughing. And crying. I realized that all of this pressure was artificial.
I decided then that it was time to stop being frazzled and start being intentional. It was time for me to decide how I put everything together.
Not the Internet.
Not the Joneses.
What no one ever tells you about having it all is that you don’t actually need all the pieces. Some pieces will never get used, and that’s OKAY. No, it’s perfect, because that means that YOU decide which pieces to use.
For you fellow superwomen (and men) out there, the solution to this puzzle might surprise you. Having it all is not doing it all or being it all. It is defining what “all” is for yourself and putting together the pieces that make that your reality.
So if you’re ready for a new kind of having it all, grab a pen and paper. You’re about to do some digging.
Answer these three questions and come back to them often. This is not meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be a beginning. Give yourself permission to test drive your words and revise as often as you need.
1. What is already right in front of you?
Sometimes when you’re so caught up in doing it all or being it all, you lose track of the things that are right in front of you. It’s high time you renewed your focus.
What are the people, things, or activities in your life that already bring you purpose and joy? How are you currently prioritizing these things, and how do you want these to fit into your life? Notice any discrepancies?
2. How do you want to define having it all?
This is your chance to cut the ties between having it all and doing it all. As you define having it all for yourself, think about what is most important in your life, what you can do without, and what picture you want to create in the end.
The number of pieces used do not measure your value as a person. Include the pieces that fit, and box up the rest with no judgment.
3. What is your watchword moving forward?
Choose one or two words that reflect what kind of picture you want to create. Write them down all over the place. Write yourself notes and send them in the mail for a little future surprise. Set reminders for yourself in your calendar. Post them on the mirror, computer, fridge…wherever you need to see your watchwords the most.
You have a lifetime of experience telling you what the old way of doing it all looks like. Think of this as immersing yourself in your new language of having it all.
When you’re finished, leave a comment and share. What is your definition of having it all? What is your watchword?
Leslie Ralph writes at A Year of Happy where she combines her years of training and practice as a psychologist with the lessons she’s still learning as a working mom. Her mission is to teach working moms real-life tips for happiness and self-care, even when there’s only 10 minutes to spare. Each month, she tackles a new topic inspired by life as a mom, positive psychology, and meditation. Stop by http://www.ayearofhappy.com/revitalize/ to download your free 2-minute revitalizing meditation.
Image courtesy of Lana Neiman.