As a type-A go-getter, I often cling to the things that are productive or forward driving, both in work and at home. This drive can be productive and fun, however, there is a point when the constant driving to create, do, or become is detrimental. Have you ever had a moment of down-time in an otherwise packed day... and instead of spending that time outside in the sunshine, or stretching, or just taking a read of a chapter in a favorite book you try to fit one more thing in... one last email, picking up one more mess around the house, ordering those few more items off Amazon? I often have felt the need to make my “downtime” productive. Instead of just going for a walk, I go for a walk while I listen to ebooks that are about business and growth. And my walk isn't just a stroll, it's met with a step count goal and on my real "type-A-Lizzie-days" I have a heart rate goal too! Might as well learn something, plan for the future of my business, keep my health in order and get some cardio in all at the same time. Who's been here?
It's as if there’s an overarching requirement that everything, whether it’s for work or pleasure, needs to be in service of something else. It must be leading to the creation of something else.
This focus on productivity leads to rigidity in our schedules, and rigidity to our days, which over time squeezes out the magic of life and turns our life experience into a constant churn of doing which leads to overwhelm and exhaustion.
The antidote? Approaching life with a softness that allows for the seemingly frivolous to light up our days and bring energy to our experience. This involves play, rest, being creative, tinkering, nurturing connections (not to network, instead simply to experience another), and following your curiosity as an experience of manifesting itself.
This softness, non-productive focus, allows for a fuller experience of life.
And while softness may feel like the polar opposite of productivity, I invite you to explore the many ways in which softness actually opens doors that would have otherwise remained shut. As if slowing down helps us gather ourselves and get back in the rhythm of life so we naturally catch the door opening as we approach vs. constantly having it closing in our face. As if you're moving through live hitting every green light... speeding and rushing from one light to the next often delivers a more stressful stop-go-stop-go experience compared to cruising through, even-keeled and at a non-rushed pace that feels good, hands soft on the wheel, allowing the road to open up for us right as we approach.
For me, I've discovered this softness in many ways. Like taking time to swing in my hammock in the sunshine even when I have a busy day with a long to-do list. Or going to the stables to groom a horse, not to ride it, simply to be with it, love it, and give some comfort and pleasure to another. Going on a walk, earbuds out, listening to the birds, the wind, the thunder in the distance. I often get anxious if I can't find my earbuds (sound familiar?!) when I am about to head on a walk, but when I settle into being ok without direction, insight, or entertainment, I relax and find my mind and heart do all sorts of talking in their absence.
These two examples create space for me to dream, reflect, pause and experience the life I have created. And many times, it's in these moments of softness that I have an ah-ha about a blind spot, or an idea about a problem I'm trying to solve, or an overwhelming sense of gratitude for where I am right now, in this very moment of my life. And above all, it returns me to a rhythm of perspective and clarity. Giving me the space and breath for productive and efficient work on my to-do's for that day.
I invite you to:
Try things for the sake of play, without having a specific outcome in mind
Allow yourself to rest or take a break instead of pushing to do the next “productive” thing
Have self-compassion as you welcome new ways of being in life; allow for imperfection and celebrate for your willingness to try new things
Be conscious that the connections, roles and relationships of life often require our full presence; it is not always easy but if we slow down and give our attention more often than not this is the most productive energy of all
Your Practice for the Week:
Listen to the little voice or urges that are asking you to slow down. You might find resistance or even anger bubble up, remember that the only way to a better experience is through the one you're in. Breathe, make a choice, and ask your impatience or fear to give you 15 minutes to try something new. Respond by being more playful, creating space in a routine (like 15 minutes of stretching after a workout), sitting down and playing on the floor with your kids or favorite fur baby. You just might notice how rejuvenating and heart-warming a simple shift like this can make. Follow that voice that says “Let’s play" and notice how the experience of your life shifts from a task to a treasure.
My hope is the next time you hear that voice, which you may have heard many times, (or if it’s the first time you notice it, that’s awesome) you’ll try out what it’s asking you to do.
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