Learning Enough to Break

The very generous folks over at Freedom Mastery have given me a gorgeous “Law of Attraction” planner to try out and review for them.

This is not that review. But it is gorgeous.

It’s also really hard.

Specifically, before you get into the fun of daily schedules and priorities and such, there’s these…exercises. A series of things at the beginning that ask you questions and then help you create your own mission and vision statement.

I am really good at dealing with emergent challenges. I can react to things in front of me with both grace and aplomb, and I’m proud of that skill. However, that often leaves me lacking in the “big picture” planning. To put it another way, I’m a great tactician, but a lousy strategist.

The responsibility of fully reviewing this planner, though, meant that I wasn’t able to just shrug it off and go to my daily plans. So I grumbled and opened up the first few pages and did the 90-second answers to the questions.

It wasn’t that bad, really. But after I was done, one stayed with me.

The Hardest Question

Here’s the question:

If I achieved all of my life’s goals, how would I feel? How can I feel that along the way?

Now, I’ve long said that I would never finish all of my goals — my backburners have backburners, after all — so the first part of the question made me laugh.

But the answer to the second part — how would I feel?— made me a little sad. Because words like “triumphant” and “accomplished” did not come to mind. Instead, there was a simple thought: I could rest. I would be able to take a break, and know that I had earned it.

That’s messed up. You can see that, right? The idea that I would have to do everything just to give myself the right to a respite? I mean, I know where it comes from — start with Judeo-Christian Puritan “work ethic” and sprinkle in a liberal dose of John Wayne’s “We’re wastin’ daylight!” and then the good old entrepreneurial spirit (Yep, I make my own hours — I can work any twenty-three a day I want) and what you end up with is a truly unsustainable workload.

Thing is, it’s not hypothetical. In my early twenties, struggling to work two jobs to feed my family, I tried working four shifts (between the two jobs) in a row, and I had a breakdown (Thanks, Dad, for helping me with that). Thing is, deep down, below the I can do this and this is what’s necessary was a tiny part of me that knew I couldn’t do this — no one could — but if it broke me, well, then I could take a break, and no one could blame me for not trying hard enough.

Yep. That’s some messed-up internal mechanisms, there.

The Second Part Gets Harder

How can I feel that along the way?

Great. So first you ask me how I would feel if I did something impossible, and now you’re asking me how to feel that way even if I didn’t? What are you trying to do to me, Freedom Mastery?!?

Of course, it’s only hard because I’m talking about me. If I were counseling someone else (and I have) I would simply point out that this is what Brene Brown is talking about when she suggests that we need to learn to be ok with “enough”.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

”Cultivating.” That means it’s not an easy fix. It’s a process, involving planting seeds and nourishing their growth and managing the environment so that they flourish (at least, that’s what a certain greenhouse manager I’m fond of tells me).

It’s not (just) a pill, or an organizer, or an app, though all of those things may be part of the cultivation of your own place of worthiness.

How can I feel like I’ve done enough to deserve a break, even when there are things left to do?

That’s a really challenging question, for me. How about you?

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