The great thing about choices is that we can always reexamine the ones we make and choose differently. We have the ability to change our lives simply by making different choices in the future. Sometimes we make choices without even realizing we are doing so. We think there is no other option or way; perhaps we become blinded by society’s ideals and what has been romanticized in popular culture. There is always another way, though, and the power is usually in our own hands.
On the topic of choices, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Sometimes we become very dramatic with our lives and believe that if we are to get what we want, we have to sacrifice everything that is near and dear to us. The “excellence” books tell us that if we want to get to the top, we have to be willing to sacrifice spouse, children (having children), hobbies, and anything in our lives that is not related to work in order to ‘make it.’ Some of us have tried to do that. We have become workaholics and in that process lost ourselves. Without ourselves, we ultimately have little or nothing to offer. We have tried to shut out our need for closeness, friendship, rest, and leisure, believing in the rightness and nobility of our decision.
We have sacrificed for our work. We have fulfilled the romantic dream of giving our all. We have excelled.”
Wow. If today’s meditation wasn’t a description of my life, then I don’t know what it is. The idea of giving our all, of working ourselves to the bone and sacrificing everything for our career, has been so romanticized in American culture that I fell for it. And to be honest, it worked. I certainly have excelled in my career, and prior to making a change I felt was necessary for my growth as well as emotional and mental well-being, I was on the fast track to management. That kind of lifestyle and success comes at a cost though, as you well know by now if you have been following along. I was miserable. Not only was I deeply unhappy in my personal life, I was also unhappy professionally. I felt permanently on edge. I was exhausted, anxious, and on the verge of snapping at a moment’s notice. The worse these feelings became, the more I tried to bottle them in and push myself to work harder. I would skip meals and sleep in an attempt to find more time in my day. In the time I should have spent on leisure, I instead worried about work. No wonder it felt as though my life was falling apart.
Making time for yourself—indeed, making yourself a priority in your own life—is so essential to both happiness and success. You cannot carry on for long the way I did without suffering both physical and mental consequences. In addition to making time for my relationships and leisure, I have begun to take better care of myself. I started small with a priority to get a minimum 7 hours of sleep each night and eat 3 meals a day without paying much attention to the actual nutritional quality of those meals. The goal was to eat until I was full. Small goals are much more attainable and sustainable in that I am more likely to stick with them consistently. This past week, I focused on cleaning up my sleep hygiene, which means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends) and striving for 8 hours of sleep each night, as well as improving my nutrition by eating more vegetables and drinking more water. Interestingly enough, these two goals have lead me to naturally crave and eat more healthy food. My body feels good and my mind does as well. What a difference taking care of yourself makes.
Choose yourself every day. If you don’t make yourself a priority, no one else will.