Let me ask you a question. What phrases do you find yourself using when it comes to dealing with all those things you feel like you should be doing, or the things you say you really want to do, but can’t seem to find the time for?
You know what I’m talking about: “When X happens,” “After school starts,” After the holidays,” or my recent favourite, “When things settle down…”
Yes, I’ve used that one too! As a matter of fact, I’ve found myself saying it more often lately, which led to multiple conversations with others who also are feeling stuck and overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life. Waiting for the right time (or for things to settle down) is a perfect way to keep yourself feeling stuck and overwhelmed. And, to be blunt, it’s also an easy excuse for not facing some of the difficult choices we really need to make.
I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in putting things aside, figuring that when things “settle down a bit” I’ll have more time to focus on them. Unfortunately, we tend to do this with things that really need and deserve our time and attention. You know, all those “little” things, like doing what brings us joy, pursuing our passions, stuff like practicing healthy habits (nutrition, movement, sleep and recovery) and scheduling time for self care.
We wait for the “right” time, for those mythical periods when we have more time, when all the planets align and somehow we’ll just start doing all those things that we know will give us better health, greater happiness, and more life satisfaction.
Here’s the rub: if you haven’t already created those habits, step-by-step, and practised them over time, how do you expect them to suddenly become part of your life?
Unfortunately, the longer we wait, the harder it is to get started. Think back to one year ago. Were you saying the same things then? (And there’s NO judgement here - I was too!) Now, here we are, another year later, and we haven’t made a lick of progress. If you’re anything like me, it’s more than frustrating, and can leave you feeling defeated and disheartened, like it’s just not ever going to happen for you.
I am here to tell you that it can happen, but only if you make the decision to start right now.
As hard as it is to admit, we choose the life we have. If you’re over-committed and overwhelmed, it’s because of the choice you’ve made to say YES to everything that comes your way. If you’re unhappy with where you are in your life, then it’s time to make different choices. If you feel like you don’t have any choice in what happens, you’ve made the choice to let things happen as they will.
Don’t get me wrong, making different choices isn’t easy. A lot of the time it can be really hard. But until we start making different choices, we’re going to keep experiencing the same stuck-ness. Over and over again.
Having just finished 6+ months of over-commitment and being unsure about whether I could survive everything that was going on, I had to take a hard look at myself and the choices I was making. There were some very exciting things happening, fun projects, and great opportunities. But for a while I lost the ability to say NO. The result? For everything I said Yes to, other things defaulted to NO, and several things that were important to me inevitably were dropped. Things like restful sleep and recovery, fitting in regular movement and workouts, and of course, my own health. (Insert facepalm here.)
I’m great at coaching others through these periods in their lives, but I sometimes struggle to do it for myself. I’m telling you this because authenticity is one of my top values. I want you to know that if this sounds like you, you are NOT alone! I’ve started working with a coach of my own because even though I know what to do, I still need guidance and accountability for navigating life’s ups and downs. I’m confident that the reason things went so far astray for me is that I stopped working with my coach for a while, figuring I could do it on my own.
I firmly believe that working with a coach is the best way to get (and stay) on track. Coaching provides an objective viewpoint, helps you see your own blocks (which we are often blind to), builds in accountability, and is a source of support that well-meaning friends and family just can’t provide. I’ve made myself a promise that the remainder of this year is going to be all about eliminating commitments that don’t align with my core values or that don’t bring some benefit into my life, and working together with my coach, figuring out what that looks like is going to be a whole lot easier.
As a Master Health Coach it has been difficult for me to share this because I don’t like thinking that I’m still struggling with this stuff. But you know what? I’m still human. We share a common humanity and I think (I hope, at least) this kind of thing can bring us closer together. This journey is much easier when shared.
So if you’re wondering how to make this all happen for yourself, of course my first piece of advice would be to find a coach you really resonate with, and make the investment in yourself to work with them. It can make all the difference and help you get on the right path sooner rather than later. Because who knows what tomorrow will bring?
In addition to working with a coach, these exercises may help bring some clarity to your journey and help you take that first step instead of waiting for the proverbial “right time.” This is something I try to do every quarter to help me stay focused on what’s most important.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down a list of your core values. Write as many as you can think of (if you need help with what those look like, a quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas).
- Next, circle your top 10 values on that list Then, take a quick break and go for a 5 minute walk. When you come back, sit down and reduce that list to no more than 5-7. These are the things that are most important to you, that if you had to choose between one action or another, would help guide your decision.
- Next (or schedule another time to do this), write out a list of all the obligations and regular activities that you have going on in your life. This includes all the things you do for others, paid employment, community organizations, kids’ activities, family care, household chores, etc.
- Once that list is done, write out another list that includes all the things you would like to be doing for yourself. This can be hobbies, education, personal development, relaxation, and any other kind of self-care or self-development that you don’t seem to have time for.
- After you've made both of those lists, schedule some quiet time where you won’t be interrupted. Go to the library or a coffee shop if you need to get away from constant interruptions. Sit down with those 2 lists and start a 3rd one. List each of your core personal values at the top of a column, and underneath each one, write out the activities and obligations that support that value. In a separate column, list the activities that don’t support any of your core values.
- Then make a similar list of things you want to do for yourself but aren’t currently doing and the values they support.
Doing these exercises can be difficult, and may bring up a myriad of different emotions, but it also will show you very clearly where you are feeling in alignment with your values, and where your life is out of balance.
Remember that there is no judgment here. This is all about bringing awareness and clarity to what is actually happening in your life. If you are feeling like something is missing or like you’re not really satisfied with your life and aren’t sure why, going through these exercises will help to show you where the biggest imbalances are.
Once you have that clarity and awareness, then you get to choose what you want to do with the information.
- Where can you set stronger boundaries and create space for your own needs?
- What can you let go of?
- Where do you need some extra support?
- Where do you need to make different choices? And what might that look like?
Some of the answers to those questions will be easier than others. This is just a starting point. It’s like programming the beginning of your journey into your GPS. When you have more clarity about where you are in relation to where you want to go, it gives you the power to make choices that support your journey.
Understanding what the journey looks like is what will help you break it down into small, doable steps so you can take action.
Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And the right time to take that first step is NOW.
Yes, it is so important to know your own core values. Then you can make all your decisions from a place of alignment.