What happens when you can no longer give the best version of yourself to people?
This was the question I asked myself one Tuesday night as I lay in bed, utterly exhausted at the end of day. I was wiped. My arms and legs were limp. My brain was complete mush. But I only had myself to blame.
Slowly scrolling through my calendar on my iPhone revealed to me the source of my anxieties that week. Back to back appointments. Post-work drinks awkwardly squished into a 1 hour gap. Church meetings sandwiched in between rushed dinner times (I have a theory that only robots can eat an entire meal in 15 minutes or less) and reluctantly hanging the laundry at 10pm.
It dawned on me that I was turning up to social engagements and other commitments one after the other, but I wasn’t giving others the best version of myself.
I was turning up, but not showing me.
Dear friends, I don’t wan’t to seem like I am demeaning your beautiful, full life.
But there is a big difference between a full life and a busy life. The first is a beautiful melody, rich with increasing bravados, decreasing crescendos and mellifluous lyrics. While the second is more of a botched harmony overwhelmed by an abundance of vocals and varying pitches.
In other words, more does not always equal better. A busy life does not lend to a fulfilling life. Instead, our overwhelming schedules often leave our hearts feeling underwhelmed.
I love what best-selling author and speaker Lysa Terkeurst says in her book, The Best Yes:
“The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.”
Our schedules determine the life we live. And our schedules are created by the choices we make. However, insignificant they are; our daily choices make us who we are.
That evening, as I curled up on my bed, feeling the weight of my present demands and future anxieties, I knew I had to let some things go. Some things would have to give. And I was okay with that.
Now hear me, I didn’t’ say ‘no’ to my day job, nor am I suggesting that you drop the ball on every last commitment you’ve signed up for. That’s not setting boundaries, that’s just being plain irresponsible. What I mean is that my mini-burnout was the catalyst for me to re-evaluate my priorities and to redefine my schedule based upon two criteria: the things I had to do vs. the things I wanted to do.
Most importantly, I needed to discover how I would strike a balance between the two without depleting myself physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
For example, when making a decision about how I will spend my time, I would ask myself the following question: Is X commitment going to deplete me physical, emotionally, spiritually or mentally? If the answer was yes, I would assess whether that particular commitment was worth my time and whether the pros of following through with that decision outweighed the cons. And what I’ve discovered since then is that sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes it’s not.
Here’s some questions I find helpful when I’m making a decision about how to spend my time:
- What things in my life do I need to do today? i.e. work, church, eat dinner
- What things in my life would I like to do today? write, see friends, workout
- Will this decision leave me feeling physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally depleted?
- If the answer is yes to the question above, why is that? And if I choose to follow through with this decision, what is it going to cost me? Sometimes it’s worth the cost!
The reality is, there will always be a cost associated with everything we do. When I choose to cook a healthy dinner at home from scratch, this will cost me time I could be using to tick another chore off my to-do list. When I choose to see a friend for a drink after work, this will cost me time I could be using to do a HIIT at the gym. When I choose to stay up late to watch another episode on Netflix, this will cost me time I could be spending asleep.
There is always a cost. Sometimes that cost is 100% worth it. Choosing to be there for a friend is worth the cost of having time to myself one evening. Choosing to forego eating out during the week is worth the cost to put more money aside for your travel fund.
I know it sounds really simple but when I learned to start filtering my decision-making process in this way, I began to feel more in control of my own schedule; instead of my schedule controlling me! No longer did I feel pressured to turn up to every single social occasion. FOMO is alive and well, my friends. And sometimes the temptation is still there knocking on my front door, begging me to come outside and play. But I have learned to shut the door on the need to be everywhere and to do everything, and I’m slowly learning the art of being present here and doing things one at a time.
We are not hard-wired to be everywhere all at once. Busy does not make us popular; overtime, it just makes us stressed out, tired out and unfulfilled as humans. Culture encourages us to say yes to everything and to everyone, much to the expense of our own spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health.
So next time you are faced with what seems like an impossibly busy schedule, try asking yourself these questions above and slowly begin to strip back.
You might be surprised at how much lighter you begin to feel.
Let’s keep it simple and learn to say no so that we can give others the best versions of us.