Do you remember the last time you felt completely caught up at work and at home?  For me, that was in the late 70’s prior to the internet and information explosion.  Most of us will not feel again that sense of being “all caught up” in the current world we have co-created.

To have more peace, greater satisfaction and less stress, we need a different relationship with the concept of time: one that puts us in charge of how we navigate our days based on our own values and what is meaningful rather than becoming slaves to external demands and expectations. Some of us may want to stop getting our sense of importance from how busy we are, and go a bit deeper into how we measure our worth. We also need new skills: discernment and prioritization.  In other words, we must revisit our ideas about what success means to us today as unique individuals with unique values, emotional makeup and priorities. We must resist the urge to give in to every demand and request upon our most precious resources: our time and life energy. Putting those boundaries in place can be challenging, but necessary.

None of us can keep up with all that comes at us, so we have to get very specific about what is most important – determining what makes the cut for where we spend our precious life energy and time.  Most of the clients, colleagues and friends I talk with are dealing with a constant state of overwhelm.  There’s a nagging sense just beneath conscious awareness that they’ve forgotten something important, and that it may jump up and bite them at any moment.  Even if they have down time, it’s fraught with worry about what else needs to be done, and what new crises are lurking in their unopened email even now.

How do we escape this hamster wheel we’ve been spinning for the last several years?  What does success look like and sound like now?  Where might we let go of less important elements in order to make space for what is fulfilling now? These questions remind me of  that shopping rule many of us put in place to keep closets from exploding: for every new item you bring home, give an item away to keep the balance.  That’s how we manage finite resources.  If we had to eliminate something each time a new event was added, we could still have a degree of spaciousness in our calendars.  

The same day I began writing this article, I got an invitation to a meditation series on this very topic from Oprah and Deepak Chopra: Finding 15 minutes a day for meditation used to feel silly until the quality of peacefulness became a higher priority.  Now, that feels like a bargain worth buying.  Before saying “yes” to invitations, I asked myself what value it will serve.  Long ago, I stopped accepting invitations to parties where I would feel pressure to buy a product I didn’t need or want.  I also stopped being part of what felt like forced networking events where we were expected to do business with people simply because they pay their club dues.  Lately, I’ve limited my time on social media to about 20 minutes a day, and I’m getting to bed at a more reasonable hour.  Adequate sleep is much more important to me than knowing what everyone did on the weekend, or what they had for lunch.  I’ve been asking myself “what can I reasonably accomplish on this project today?”  Then, I allow that to be enough even if it’s one small step.  

Because I have Relator and Connectedness in my top strengths, spending quality time in relationships is important to my sense of wellbeing.  Scheduling lunch with my daughter or a friend, therefore, is seen as an investment in that relationship.  And, I try to be fully present in appreciating the connection I have with the other person.  I come away from an outing like that feeling deeply satisfied with the time we spent together.  What I notice about this way of monitoring what success looks like from day to day is that I make more conscious choices that give me a sense of operating on a full tank rather than feeling depleted. What gives you a sense of wellbeing that you have foregone for something less meaningful?

My invitation to clients, and to you, is to recalibrate your definition of success to what it means to you today. Tomorrow might look different. We would never set our cars on cruise control and expect to keep driving 65 no matter what, but many of us act like we have only one speed: full throttle until we drop.

Before saying “yes” to any invitation or request, give yourself time to reflect whether the value added is worth the time and energy spent. Even if that means writing a twenty minute appointment in your calendar, like “Finding animal shapes in the clouds.” We are each worthy of investing in our wellness and happiness, and ultimately no one else can do that for us. Defining a successful life is an inside job that can only be done by us. No one else can know how meaningful any activity is for us, or what deeply held values it serves. Take your power back by reclaiming a healthy relationship with time and the way you define success.

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