Recently, I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of things that I haven’t done that I promised myself I would do. French, coding and piano just to name a few. All noble pursuits, yet they all seemed to fall off the wagon because life just got in the way.
It wasn’t that I lost interest or decided they weren’t worth it — other obligations (sometimes less exciting obligations) just seemed to always take priority.
Because of these unintentionally abandoned goals I began getting pretty upset with myself. If these things were important to me, why were they constantly taking a back seat to everything else?
It was a choice between two evils. On one hand I could continue to preserve my sanity and physical energy while filling my mind with fears that I was lagging behind or missing out. On the other hand I could overload my schedule, wear out my mind and body and have a head of gray hair in three years.
Stress vs. Regret
Exhaustion vs. Missing Out
Overwhelm vs. Unattained Goals
For some time, I felt like I couldn’t win. But I’ve discovered the framework that puts every worry in its place. Our seasons of life dictate our focus.
It’s a simple idea, really. We must adapt our focus to fit the season of life that we’re in. The seasons of our lives play a large part in choosing what we focus our time, energy and resources on. As seasons change, so do our priorities. By giving ourselves permission to put a name on our season of life, we’re giving our fear-of-missing-out permission to kindly back off.
We don’t have to tackle twenty-two things during this season — just one or two. The power of concentrated effort comes with a multitude of benefits, including freeing you up to conquer new dreams tomorrow.
“Finish what you started so that you can start new things eventually.”
— Jon Acuff, Do Over
Worry is our body’s natural failsafe against extinction. To rid ourselves of it, we must be strategic in showing ourselves that we are, in fact, not in danger. Our dreams can and will survive if we take the appropriate steps to ensure it.
Here are three simple steps to reclaim your dreams and your sanity.
1. Determine what season are you in.
Take stock of your goals, relationships and opportunities, asking yourself what is necessary now to open doors in the future. Sometimes it will be fun and other times, it will simply be necessary. But understanding what your life is made up of will give you the power to shape it.
2. Prune your focus.
Determine a single focus that your season is centered around. Your goal in pinpointing a core focus is to help you lean in to those things that are most important in a particular stage of life. Keep in mind that as seasons change, so will your focus. Don’t be afraid to adapt as you see opportunity to do so. Whether you’re graduating college, buying a home, switching careers or moving to a new state, each season will present you with decisions and responsibilities that deserve your full attention.
3. Create a not-to-do list.
Almost just as important as your to-do list is your not-to-do list. It helps you maintain a laser-focus on the few things that matter for your season and not get distracted by the enticing activities that are demand your attention.
In our hyper-active age, it’s easy to get distracted by shiny opportunities. Advertisements in website sidebars depend on it (thank goodness there’s no sidebars here). Your not-to-do list is your defense.
If we understand that our lives are made up of seasons, we’ll discover that one season, though it may restrict you in some ways, opens you up to opportunity that you didn’t have in others. Delegating dreams to their appropriate seasons of life relieves you of the burden to try to do too many things at once.
On top of that, by freeing yourself to concentrate your efforts on fewer things, you’ll find yourself able to make incredible progress in a shorter amount of time than if your attention was spread thin across too many activities.
You haven’t dismantled and sold your dreams for parts. You’ve simply shelved them until you can give them the proper attention they deserve.
As you can guess, the key to shelving dreams is that they shouldn’t be buried in some dusty corner of the basement. They should be in plain site, ready to be taken down and pursued when the appropriate season presents itself.
Don’t let your dreams die — let them mature. In the mean time, lock your gaze on what this season brings you and embrace it.