Somewhere along the lines someone told us that we could “do it all and that we could have it all.” Maybe we can thank Wonder Woman, or Leave it to Beaver, or those 1950s cookbooks with the wife/mom pulling a turkey AND pie AND pot roast out of the oven at the same time. I grew up thinking that I was going to be that person. (No, not the one pulling all those crazy dishes out of the oven, unless it’s Thanksgiving of course). I mean the one that was going to do it and have it all. About a year ago – mid-October 2016 to be exact – I came to a realization. I can’t do it all. And I’m NOT sorry.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ME
No one was happy. Everyone (including me) was complaining. I felt like I wasn’t being a good friend, daughter, girlfriend, worker, grandchild, or blogger. I couldn’t understand why even though I was putting the effort in, I wasn’t seeing the results. Unless of course you count gray hairs to be results. It felt like I was one of those hair ties that you use 1,000 times and it gets so stretched out that it snaps. Guess what? I figuratively snapped. It was all thanks to Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In.
BURSTING THE MYTH: LEAN IN & YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL.
Sheryl said, :“Each of us makes choices constantly between work and family, exercising and relaxing, making time for others and taking time for ourselves. Being a parent means making adjustments, compromises, and sacrifices every day. For most people, sacrifices and hardships are not a choice, but a necessity.” (p.122)
Even though I’m not a parent, I knew what she was talking about. I knew that with only 24 hours in a day I could only do and be so much. What really hit it home was this next quote –
“Success is making the best choices we can . . . and accepting them.” (p.139)
Those of us that want to have it and do it all have something major in common – we have extremely high expectations of what success looks like. To me success was trying to make everyone happy all the time, even though it meant making me UNhappy all the time. Like I was saying earlier, I snapped. Tiffany Dufu, one of my favorite speakers and the Chief Leadership Officer of Levo, put it best – I dropped the ball. (FYI Her book, Drop the Ball is a must read. )
BECOME OKAY WITH DROPPING THE BALL
Everything about dropping the ball felt wrong at first. I consider myself pretty self-less, so making things about “me” went against the grain. Below are a few things that helped me finally feel comfortable with not doing it all. At the end of the day you can’t do it all, so you might as well get on board with figuring it all out.
Find out what really matters.
Have you ever watched the show “Chopped” ? It’s on the Food Channel and basically chefs go through 3 rounds of cooking (appetizer, entree, dessert) and every round someone gets chopped until they arrive at one winner. Life has a lot of moving parts, and you need to treat those parts like the judges on Chopped would.
Ask yourself the following questions –
- Which of your relationships are high quality, and which are low quality?
- What do you truly enjoy doing with your free time?
- In your life right now – what is making you happy and what is making you unhappy?
I put this tip first because it was the no 1 tip that has led to my happiness in the last year. Low quality friendships that suck up my time? Chopped. Going to events because other people want me to go, and not because I want to go? Chopped. You get my drift. It might sound cruel, but life is too short to be doing things or spending time with people that pull you back instead of pushing you forwards.
Ask for help.
When I started my first job out of college, I was afraid to ask questions. I felt that by asking questions or asking for help, I was showing that I was weak or unqualified.
A situation finally came along where I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I asked one of my colleagues for help because I had spent days trying to solve the problem. What I had spent days on took him 10 minutes. It was a tough pill to swallow. Not to get all cliché but there’s no “I” in “TEAM.” Asking for help doesn’t show that you’re weak, it shows that you’re strong enough to know what you can (and can’t) accomplish on your own.
Be honest with yourself and others.
This is the younger sibling of the “Ask for Help” tip. I truly believe that 99.9% of the time honesty is the best policy. And that honesty comes in the form of being introspective and asking yourself “what is my bandwidth?” I have high expectations for myself. I think I tend to think there’s more hours in the day than there actually are.
But here’s the problem. Optimism is GOOD. Unrealistic Optimism is BAD. When you become unrealistically optimistic, that when you can lead yourself and others down what I call the hole of disappointment. For example, let’s say your boss asks you to complete a project within a certain time span. You know that you have 1,000 other things on your plate and that even though it’s possible that you can complete the project on time, it’s improbable. I believe that the better option is to be honest, explain the situation and propose a new timeline. By being honest you’re setting realistic expectations and decreasing the likelihood of disappointing others.
Stick to what you believe in.
This tip comes from Tiffany Dufu, and when she first shared it I didn’t really resonate with me until she explained it. When you start to drop the ball people will question you and they’ll judge you. Don’t allow them to tear you down. Remember that you carefully analyzed your situation and made the tough decisions. Believe in yourself and stick to what you believe in.
A perfect example for me is a reoccurring situation I’ve been in. When I’m not working, I’m blogging or doing all the other adult things I have to do. That means I don’t have much free unscheduled time. I don’t enjoy going out to bars and drinking. I don’t enjoy not sleeping enough and waking up grumpy. I prefer going to sleep at 10 PM (even if it’s Friday) after making a nice dinner and watching Netflix. Boring? Maybe to you. But to me that means I can wake up early the next morning, head to the farmer’s market, sit at a coffee shop, and write a blog post. All before 10 AM. I’ve had to stick to my beliefs on this topic despite friends constantly pushing me to go out.
Be comfortable with saying “No.”
We all have limits. Being “Yes (Wo)man” doesn’t necessarily show we’re strong. I’ve reiterated it over and over on the blog. Like in blogging (I mentioned it in this post) , what you say no to says more about you than what you say yes to.
Whether it’s a project at work, or an invite from a friend – you can’t say yes every. single. time. Prioritize what’s important and say “thanks, but no thanks” to the rest.