Recently, our family was invited to visit friends for the weekend at their cabin on the river, an hour’s drive from our house. The night before we were going to leave, my husband and I were frantically creating lists of all the things we needed to buy, prepare, and pack — when we suddenly paused and looked at each other. “What do you most need this weekend?” I asked. He replied, “To stay home and do nothing.” I agreed. So we gave ourselves permission to back out of the commitment and just stay home; our friends understood. We stuck by our guns, too, and had one of the laziest — as well as one of the most connected, soulful, and satisfying— weekends we’d ever had as a family. The high point included lounging in the backyard hammock swing while our son played in the sprinkler with friends. When we allow ourselves to enjoy stretches of unscheduled time, we relax into the gifts that come from doing less and experiencing — and feeling — more.
Many of my clients share that the one thing they crave more than anything is expanses of unscheduled time and the delights that are born from the space of “doing nothing.” My colleague/author coach Cheryl Richardson once said that a high quality of life has more to do with what you remove from your life than what you add to it. This is counter to everything we’re taught in our modern culture. The idea that the quality of our lives, our well-being, our happiness, and our sense of joy and fulfillment are enhanced when we do less — not more — is a radical departure from the American way. Yet, conversely, we are all too familiar with the stress and exhaustion we create for ourselves when we’re overscheduled and overbusy because we’ve said yes one too many times.
Monday morning phone calls with friends often sound the same: they’re exhausted from too many weekend activities, errands, and obligations. What they really needed was rest, rejuvenation, and lots of downtime.
Overdoing keeps us from experiencing life in the moment. Our modern world has expanded what we can accomplish. Things move faster than ever before, we have more options available at our fingertips, and our reach extends around the globe. Yet on a day-to-day level, this comes at a cost to our well-being. Often, we pay the following price:
• We are more distracted. Even when we’re together as a family, we aren’t present and focused on each other, and we don’t feel fed by our time together.
• We are overly focused on activities, goals, and outcomes, which sends the powerful, subconscious message to our kids — and ourselves— that we are only worthy if we’re “doing.”
• Since we live in constant motion and rarely rest, we are perpetually overextended, and so we become resentful and even angry, at both ourselves and others.
• Physically, we feel chronically tired and exhausted. Our poor bodies, overworked and overstimulated, rarely have time to truly rejuvenate.
• Over time, the ongoing stress from our relentless pace affects our body’s immune, endocrine, and hormone systems, which are frequently out of balance. Living in “fight or flight” around the clock has become the norm and this stress is the root cause of 95% of all disease.
We’re entering a time of the unknown — a whole new frontier — that I believe requires us to have more space to breathe, think, dream, and digest. We’re craving more time to just be — so we can actually integrate into our hearts and souls what’s happening moment to moment.
One of my favorite yoga teachers often asks her class, “Are we here to be productive or to give and receive love?” Kind of puts everything in perspective. (Like this theme? This is a partial excerpt from the chapter “Do Less, Experience More,” from my award-winning book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. Pick up a copy here.)
INVITE: Would you like support for getting clear on your top life/career priorities so you can say “no” to things that are draining you and “yes” to what matters most? Our 15 year-old boutique coaching firm serves clients worldwide via Skype, phone and in-person strategy session. We offer complimentary initial consults. Learn more: www.CareerStrategists.net.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by work-life balance speaker/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.
Photo: My 12 year-old took this photo at a popular teen clothing store. I think many of us can relate to feeling this way at the end of the school year, but this prominent display made you wonder if “Cray Cray” was a good thing or a bad thing?