“We sometimes do so much that we end up losing ourselves. We sell out our purpose, peace, and joy for the idea that we should be doing it all. Perfectly too, without even breaking a sweat.” — Zoë Kim
A few weeks ago, I visited my son at school because his class was having a party. I mingled over to chat with the room parent (who had graciously put this party together) and asked her how she was.
She looked at me with exhaustion in her eyes and said: “I’m good, but I’m so tired… three kids, after school activities, two dogs, and a home renovation… It’s overwhelming.” She went on to tell me that her family didn’t have one free day for the next month and she recently broke down in tears from all the overwhelm.
Her husband was there, and he nodded his head in agreement to everything she said. I think he was just too tired to even talk about being tired.
After she had finished telling me how she was, she asked me how many kids I had. “Four kids,” I told her, “three boys and a girl.”
“I don’t know how you do it all—you’re so calm.” she replied.
That moment presented the perfect opportunity to tell her my secret—I don’t do it all. And I don’t do it all well either. But I have certainly tried to live in the land of doing it all. And when I couldn’t, I’d beat myself up about it.
Today, it seems like everybody is exhausted. All. The. Time. What keeps us doing so much that we lose sight of the things that matters most?
Research is pointing to our inability to switch off and rest, either because of internal anxieties or those from work, by society or by all of these. Often, the stress starts with the feeling of always having to be available and be doing. The new technology that was built to bring us freedom by allowing us greater flexibility is, slowly (or not so slowly) working to destroy us from the inside out.
We’re trying to live as though we’re an iPhone—always on, always connected, with an app for whatever needs to be done. It’s no wonder we’re drained.
All this virtual connecting and always doing is crushing our soul and leaving us feeling undone. The desire to do more keeps us busy doing just that—more—counting the things we do instead of doing the things that count.
The Secret to Not Doing It All
So let’s say we start saying “no” to always being connected, and always doing, and honor each other’s right to do the same?
Instead of feeling undone, let’s start leaving some things left undone. Maybe they are things we don’t need to get to—things we just need to let go of. Because sometimes, less really does mean more.
These five changes have helped me stop trying to do it all:
1. Apply minimalism.
My journey began by de-owning things—perfectly good thingsand sentimental things—but as I kept going, I could see other areas of my life that needed to be de-owned too. Applying a “minimalist” filter to my life helped me identify things that don’t need to be gotten to—things I can leave undone. Now I can pursue life without feeling like I’m carrying a truck full of cement bricks around.
2. Embrace vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the path to meaningful connection. As I choose to show up and be vulnerable and real, my desire for “doing more” dissipates. In our culture, vulnerability is seen as weakness.
But we lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of belonging, joy, creativity, authenticity, and love. As I learn to lower my walls, I open myself up to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to my life.
3. Give permission.
I gave myself permission to stop “doing it all.” And I continue to speak this over my life. This may sound simple, but maybe that’s the point. Words matter, especially the ones you speak to yourself.
Greg McKeown says: “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter.”
When I’m trying to do it all, about the only thing I think of improving is my efficiency. Is that really how I want to change in my life?
4. Set boundaries.
I have chosen to leave gap time in my schedule to accommodate the innate busyness of parenting young children. I have moments of overwhelm, but I don’t live in that place anymore. Through my journey to simplify, I’ve redefined my boundaries to align with my priorities. More being, less doing. Because if I don’t prioritize my life, someone or something else will.
5. Bring balance.
By nature, I’m a helper, and I love to say “yes, let me help.” But too many yeses leave the people I love most with all the nos. I’ve learned to lower my threshold for saying no. I’ve discovered through pain and struggles that some things must be left undone. And that I can make different choices—better ones.
Finding balance in my yeses and nos carried me from the land of doing it all to the land of enough. Is a better, less harried life possible?
I think it is.
Along the way, I began to see that, “The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.” — Oswald Chambers
What if we stopped celebrating doing it all as a measure of success and self-worth? What if instead, we celebrated togetherness, gratitude, contentment, and well-being with the people we love?
What if we stopped selling out on our purpose, peace, and joy for the idea that we should be doing it all… perfectly too, without even breaking a sweat?