We are being brainwashed by society to squeeze as much productivity and perfection from our days as we can. When we fail — and inevitably, we’ll fail — we feel a sense of shame and hopelessness.
- You’ve got to work out daily and only eat healthy foods — sure.
- You should also get up early no matter what.
- Why are you spending time on entertainment? Get back to work.
- But working all day isn’t good either, so figure out how to balance that with your family life. You can’t let your kids fall behind in school or miss out on any extracurriculars.
- At the same time, you need to gain new skills and start new projects. If you don’t have time, you must be doing something wrong. Have you tried getting up even earlier?
Stop Clinging to Drastic Routines
“Routines are funny things. Following them causes a certain level of stress. Not following them causes a different level of stress. Either way, I’m never totally comfortable.” — Steven Heller.
I’m a type-A personality who needs to feel in control. So, between my temperament and the constant barrage of self-help junk I keep reading, it makes sense for me to live a certain way.
But what started with some basic morning routines has turned into a pressure cooker of rules and limitations.
If you had asked me a few months ago, I’d have told you I’m all about going to bed early, exercising, journaling, checking my Blood Pressure, doing regular blood tests, fasting, no sugar, no alcohol, living like a monk.
Is it worth it?
Truth be told, I feel like shit some days.
When I try to stick to a drastic routine, it’s like my life is passing over me.
Strict rules and routines turn our days into a monotonous slog.
And who cares about achieving longevity if you’re not thoroughly enjoying the present moment?
If you allow routines to dictate every moment of your life, you’ll miss out on those quiet moments with family and friends that form the true foundation of your relationships. To “be there for” the people you love, you need to be willing to go against your schedule and your rules.
Perfect self-discipline will also cause you to miss out on sudden bursts of inspiration. Some people are naturally more spontaneous than others, but we all need some degree of creative chaos to get new ideas.
Last but not least, when your routine gets messed up, you get frustrated, you doubt yourself.
Treat Your Body With Kindness!
In my professional life, I’m a big proponent of the Pareto rule, which says 20% of your effort can bring 80% of the results.
You can apply the same principles to every part of life.
Do you need to get up before 7 am every morning? Hell no, as long as you’re getting seven hours of sleep, more or less every day.
Do you need to deprive yourself of a delicious breakfast, for the sake of a diet? Not at all.
Instead, practice portion control, eat enough veggies throughout the day, and abstain from sugary drinks and other types of sweets(unless you really love them, in which case you can indulge in them as a treat and cut out some other sources of sugar).
Three things will help you prevent the early onset of cardiovascular issues, cancer, and other fatal diseases:
- enough sleep,
- a balanced diet which includes drinking plenty of water,
- regular exercise of some variety.
You can do these things without trying to look like an Instagram model or getting caught up in the diet wars between vegans, Keto dieters, Paleo fans, Atkins devotees, and the rest of that crowd.
If you don’t smoke and you drink alcohol occasionally, congratulations, you’re already doing better than many of the people you see touting health tips online.
Instead of chasing perfection, listen to your body.
Your inner child needs sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise. But once you’ve got the basics covered, let him or her run free. You’ll find everything is easier if you take a flexible approach and trust yourself to make (mostly) the right decisions.
Be Your Happiest Self, Not Your Best Self
Remember that the people trying to sell you on new diets and supplements make their living out of your guilt. They want you to feel like a lazy slob. So is it surprising dieting doesn’t work?
You also have productivity gurus telling you to get up at 4.30 am, work 12-hour days, and never stop grinding and hustling. Making it look easy is what they’re being paid for.
We need to stop falling for it. Happiness is so much simpler — and less expensive — than what we see in advertisements.
Don’t listen to the noise made even louder by social media. Pay attention to your needs and focus on what genuinely makes you happy.
Our world is already full of rules, do we need to apply even more pressure on ourselves to get better?
So here’s my advice, to myself and other recovering self-improvement junkies:
Be playful, don’t take yourself seriously, follow simple guidelines for your physical wellbeing. Indulge in TV marathons and junk food once in a while.
Let things happen. In wanting to gain control, you’ve been missing out on the real joy life can offer you.
“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.” ― Jodi Picoult
Eric Sangerma is an entrepreneur, founder of TrulyScaled.com and Wholistique.com and co-host of The Wholistique Show which explores how to reach peak personal and professional performance while living a minimal and balanced life. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Toa Heftiba.