Keeping Tensions in Check

When you’re always trying to reach something bigger, there’s always something else to do.

Every day becomes a big pile of the stuff I should be doing, but don’t get to, because of the stuff I have to do. And then my inner voices start piling on the guilt. To which I start defending myself with excuses so I can push the guilt out of my mind, endlessly vague and ridiculously small. If only the TV wasn’t on. If only I didn’t have to go to work. If only my husband would stop talking to me. If only my work space was better.

But the truth is, these excuses are nothing but excuses. They are not reasons.

So what’s the real problem? A need for breaks. Fun. Rest. Geez, what a concept. This is not such an awful thing, really.

No one thing, no matter how passionate you are about it, can ever completely fulfill you. A well-rounded, diverse life is the way to that. And when I truly reflect on my life, I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful people and experiences in my life that I keep scapegoating for slowing down my projects.

So … what to do?

I don’t think trying to have a “balanced” life, whatever that is, is the answer. I’ve written before about why seeking balance can hold us back. But I do believe that fun, rest and engagement with the world are really important (especially for artists).

The question then becomes, how do I take ownership for what I do and do not accomplish, and stop scapegoating?

The pressure to everything at once, all the time, is immobilizing. Every time I sit down at my computer, it’s not a time to create, it’s a race to do all I possibly can. And yet that monumental pressure makes it difficult to start. The real way to get meaningful stuff done is to focus on just one thing at a time.

So I made a master list of each thing I want to get done, big and small. I prioritized them. And then I assigned each one a different date.

It worked.

The vague, general pressure to get everything done dissolved. All I needed to do was the one piece I assigned myself for the day—say, write a first draft for the next blog article. Focusing on one manageable bite at a time—and just as importantly, being able to rest afterward without guilt, confident I’d done something productive—made all the difference.

And then there was time to just live after. Whoa.

Do get overwhelmed by your ambitions? How do you move past it?

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