by Laurie Erdman
Like the average Care2 reader, I have a lot of things going on. This year I’ve made hundreds of pots, been working a day job, practicing daily yoga, writing for Owning Pink, writing for my own blogs, cookings lots of healthy meals, serving on a non-profit board, returning to school . . . Oh heck, you get the idea – it’s a long list of commitments. At least once a week someone asks me, “How do you do it all?” My answer is always the same – I do less.
Whhaaat? I know it sounds ironic, but one of the tools in my radical self-care toolbox is “doing less.” But how is that possible when I am doing more than I ever did? Even I was confused by this paradox.
Those Were the Days
To understand how I discovered this paradox, we have to turn the clock back over the last fifteen years. Those were the days when I worked 60 plus hours a week and was defined by my job. I could never seem to do enough. I would sign up for book clubs or yoga classes as part of my self care, only to never show up because of work obligations. Eventually, I dropped out of all extra-curricular activities because they created too much stress in my life. The only exception was pottery. There was something powerful enough in clay that I found the self-love to protect my six hours of weekly studio time. Everything else, however, was up for trade to the almighty job.
Why did I live like this? Fear. I feared I would lose my job if I failed at the littlest thing. And that fear spawned a number of other fears about supporting myself, being a failure, etc. Were any of my fears true? Of course not. But I was too uncertain of my own worth and abilities to see the truth. I was stuck.
Shifting Your Paradigm
So how did I overcome my fear to learn how to do less? It was a two step process. First, I shifted my paradigm. It all began with my art. The deeper I accepted my artistic passion, the more I entertained the idea of making pots for a living, and the more I saw I was something other than my all-consuming day job. My MS diagnosis was the final nail in the coffin that was my prior life. Neither work nor pottery could be my guiding force going forward; I had to be my first priority.
While the light shown on this truth, fifteen plus years of habit didn’t fall away easy. I knew I had to recalibrate my life to focus on something larger than myself, yet something that would nourish me. But what? I began to search for my life’s purpose, or as I call it – my True North. Once I found that, I was able craft every day around that purpose. If an activity didn’t support my True North, it wouldn’t make my list.
Finding Your True North
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you feeling stuck in your current job or life situation? Do you feel like you have too much on your plate, but can’t figure out how to prioritize? Let me share tips from my process that might help you find your True North.
- Spend time alone. Any life transformation starts with getting to know you. Whether through meditation, journaling, or visioning exercises, dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to you. If possible, take occasional one day to one-week retreats.
- Listen to your heart. Dedicate this time to listening to your heart. You are searching for what is most important to you. What will make your heart sing? What will get you bounding out of bed in the morning? Your head won’t provide these answers.
- Don’t ignore the dark side. While it sounds heavenly to spend 30 minutes a day exploring your purpose, don’t forget to explore your fears, prejudices and judgments about you and others. Transformation is about becoming whole, and that means integrating every part of your being – the light and the dark. Need help? I highly recommend Dark Side of the Light Chasers, by Debbie Ford.
- Don’t set a timeline. It is easy to get impatient. It is easy to say, “in six months, my life will be completely different.” While it is good to have goals, placing a timeline on personal transformation invites you out of your heart and into your head. You will only find the answer when you are ready.
- Transformation is a journey. The first answer to come to you may not be the answer. When beginning my paradigm shift, I was certain I was meant to quit my day job and become a potter. Thankfully, I listened to the wise counsel of friends and coaches. As much as I love making pots, I am not as convinced now, as I was 9 months ago, that pottery is my True North. Pottery is my spiritual and healing practice, so I will always make pots. But I now see my True North serves a higher good — helping others heal themselves.
- Seek out help if you need it. No one can transform you but you. That doesn’t mean that we all can’t use some help on this journey. Whether a counselor, a coach or a “transformation buddy”, verbalizing your heart’s desire to another is an enlightening experience. Your voice and your eyes will always reveal your deepest desire.
What does any of this have to do with doing less? I found that once I had identified (or caught of glimpse of) my True North, I was no longer trapped by a “need” to do everything and be everything to everybody. I was then able to structure each day and week around that purpose.
How do you do this when you still have a dozen commitments? (In Part II – A Weekly Plan, I will reveal how you can accomplish more while doing less.)
Are you ready to shift your paradigm and find your True North? What is your heart saying? Are you ready to accomplish more; more that is meaningful to you?
Do What You Love
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Laurie Erdman is a writer for OwningPink.com, an accomplished artist and life coach who aims to help individuals transition from a life defined by illness or fatigue to one defined by love, vitality and wellness. If you desire a partner for your wellness journey, visit Laurie at Chronic Wellness Coaching.