Over the holiday break, I had an epiphany.
At the end of the year, I ended up getting so run down that I wasn’t well for five consecutive days. I didn’t even exercise, nor did I want to—which is very telling. That has only happened to me one other time.
Everything, all of my doing, was forced to take a back seat, and I accepted the invitation that life was presenting me; an invitation to reflect. I revaluated the places where I had been placing emphasis, where I was giving most of my attention and energy and, more importantly, the consciousness behind that energy and all of my actions. It turned out to be an unkind consciousness.
My foot was on the accelerator without taking a moment to rest, to take breaks, to enjoy myself, or to acknowledge how far I had a come. Most of all, I realized I stopped enjoying the ride. I wasn’t feeling happy, inspired, or creative.
I was dumbfounded. How did I get here? And how did it go unnoticed for six months? I consider myself to be mindful, so imagine my surprise.
In writing my New Year goals, I looked back to the ones I had written in September, around Rosh Hashanah. Pleasantly, I had achieved four major things I had set out to do and then realized I hadn’t derived joy from any of them! The goals I had achieved came at a big price: less time with the people that matter most to me. Notably, my most important and significant relationships, the ones I share with my children, husband, and myself, were the ones that took a hit.
So, in my new list, I brought the focus sharply back onto being.
Who do I want to be this year?
Not what I want to do.
In order to achieve our goals, it is vital that we act in a way that creates an environment in which we can succeed. Our choices and our priorities dictate our success, and this is why it is important to first decide who you want to be, not what you want to do. When we focus too heavily on goals (like I have a tendency to do), we are putting all of our attention on an end result. There’s no room for flexibility, there’s no room for you. However, deciding who we want to “be” allows us to grow and flow with our goals instead of defining success as one single achievement.
One of the things I want to consistently be is mindful. If I set out to “do” mindfulness I’ll end up with a rigid to-do list that says “meditate, study, practice breathing, journal, etc.” I could do all of those things and still not actually be mindful. And this is where the rubber meets the road.
I’m sure if you ask many people, you will get many answers as to what mindfulness is.
I realized that I had it all wrong. For me, in order to be truly mindful, I have to be completely in the here and now, which can be especially challenging to someone like me; a Type A who is very goal, task, and purpose-driven. Not only that, a reality of my life as a working mom is that I also have a lot of people—both in my home and my work—who ask me a multitude of questions every day. Questions like, “what are we doing tonight?” “What about this weekend?” “When is the project due?” “Which one do you like better?” And on and on. Can anyone say decision fatigue?
I have compassion for myself, but I could stand to increase it. It is very easy to see how I could set out to be mindful and end up losing track. My life is beautifully full, and I get to “do” incredible things, but if I’m not being who I want to be, I miss the enjoyment and the gifts of the day.
Now, I deal with my days by pausing every hour to stop and ask myself: “am I doing what I am meant to be doing now? Does it make me fulfilled, and am I creating meaning and purpose through this action?” If not, then I do what I can to course correct.
I even ask myself whether I enjoy what I am eating, what I’m reading, even what I’m thinking…. And if not, I pause and make a shift. The most profound shift of all; a shift in my consciousness. I replace worry about the next thing with gratitude for the present. And guess what, I feel happier! When I am now bombarded with a long list of questions, I stop and say, “I don’t know. Right now, we’re doing this.”
How often do you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and exhausted by things that used to bring you joy? Or by things that you thought would make you happy? I invite you to examine who you need to be in order to infuse your life with more meaning and purpose and, last but certainly not least, happiness. Does it mean taking more breaks? Does it mean asking for help?
If you aren’t sure, I invite you instead to check in on your consciousness. Where is your focus? Is your attention on tomorrow or next week? Is it on what someone else is thinking or feeling? If so, bring it back to right now, to what you are grateful for and all the ways you are blessed. A change in consciousness is all it takes to create an opening for blessings, for miracles and for joy.
We may be weeks into this new year, but it is never too late to decide who you want to be and start each day with a fresh consciousness of gratitude and joy.
Take some time to decide who you want to be this year or even just today. How can you align all of your “doing” with the person you desire to be?