Chronic Stress or Ultimate Joy?
I have been choosing to do things differently lately. I have been looking closely at how I have been trained and conditioned to live my life, at how this behavior isn’t providing the satisfaction I once thought it would, and at how I can turn the chronic stress of doing too much, into the liberation of ultimate joy!
Hopefully, after reading this blog post, you will be inspired to do the same!
Let me explain. Most of my life I have woken early, stayed up late, and have crammed 48 hours into a mere twenty four. Truly, I was one of those who would be at the gym by 5AM, having hiked Mt. Tamalpais by 7AM, and I’d be at work by 9AM. After work would be shopping, housecleaning, a dinner party and then maybe dancing at a club…..or something along those lines. Gross! I know. People hate me for it but I do have a lot of energy and energy needs an outlet. In the process of burning all this energy however I developed this habit of trying to get as much done as possible in any given day. My days were epic for a long, long time. It was as if I had a contest going between me and me and it was one that I mostly won! I adore accomplishment. I also didn’t want to miss out on anything, ever, and so I tried to do it all. Mostly, I was successful at this endeavor because we are capable of incredible stamina if we train and condition ourselves accordingly. Problem was, although I was busy and accomplished, I wasn’t very happy.
In retrospect, my true happiness was always over the horizon, to be enjoyed only after I crossed the next finish line or at the very least, completed my to do list. I would think to myself, “As soon as I accomplish that next thing, I can relax. Then I will be happy. Then I can rest.” Not that I was “unhappy” either……I felt good, I was on the move and getting stuff done. The accomplishment of my tasks or goals were my reward but it never stopped with that. There was always another goal out there in front, another carrot…..begging for my attention.
I know I am not alone in this. This seems to be the defining lifestyle of my generation. “Do as much as possible and don’t look back! Just keep moving.” Until one day, I sat without accomplishing anything at all, and realized I wasn’t really happy in the way I thought I would be after accomplishing ALL those things. But also, what I really was more than anything, was exhausted!
Quality of life experience does not come in quantities. Quality is enjoyed moment by moment, in the presence of our awareness. If in each moment we are thinking about the next moment, we are NOT present! How many times are you speaking with someone on the phone while doing something else? I know multi-tasking has become a way of life but I assure you, if you are doing two things at the same time, you are not truly present for either. How many times do you wish you could hurry up and finish what you are doing “right now” so you can get to that other thing on your list? And then you rush through that for the next thing, which is rarely ever the “last” thing.
Point is, our list is never complete! We never arrive. There is no end…..well, until the END, and that’s disputable. So, if we’re hurrying our NOW to get to what’s next, we are essentially missing our life and one day, we might sit and wonder where it all went?
Now, I no longer live this way. Now I ask myself “what will bring me ultimate joy?” and whenever possible I do that. That might mean I spend the whole morning with my doggie at the park, which brings us both so much joy! Or I start my workday a little late and take a morning yoga class instead. I no longer rush through the things I am doing that I actually enjoy, just to get to next think on my list…..in fact, I no longer even keep a list! This is true liberation!
Yes, of course we have responsibilities and things we need to do. We have to make the meal, clean the house, go to work, stay healthy and fit, etc., and we can’t just abandon our life to go to Hawaii for the week in search of ultimate joy. But we can decide at what pace to do those things, and we can decide to be truly present while doing those things, and we can decide to do less “things!” This way, we’ll have more time to pay attention to how rare and wonderful our life truly is!
Bottom line here is this: If you don’t set the pace and purpose of your life, if you don’t consciously choose how you want your life to be, look and feel, the world around you (your boss, family, friends, community) will decide it for you. Are you spending too much time doing things you’re not really interested in? Are you engaged in activities that don’t bring you satisfaction? Are you doing too much? Taking on too much? Is your sense of accomplishment a rouse for happiness in the future?
Be happy now. Make better choices now. Find out what brings you ultimate JOY and do more of that. You will be so glad you did!