Starting a new business has been an adventure. Like most new ventures they don't start in a vacuum, where all the variables are controlled. Instead they occur in the chaos of our everyday life. So September 2017 started with a bang of change and expectation; new school for my eldest, new responsibilities at work for my husband, and of course, the new business. Everything in life got tossed into the air and I'm working to figure out how to get everything done, how to wear all the hats and spin all the plates.
With all this change the big question I was left with was how could I be everything I need to be? How do I be the wife, the mom, the friend, the psychologist, and business owner I want to be?
Let me explain...
I want to be the mom who is home for dinner every night, who gets to do fun craft projects with her kids, read the bedtime stories and have fun while getting everyone to bed on time. I want to plan regular play dates and stimulating activities for the whole family. I want to be the mom who does this while keeping our home clean, organized and a place of peace and relaxation.
I want to be the wife who is fully present for her spouse. Where I have daily and weekly time set aside just for us. I want to live out all the great skills I teach my clients about maintaining a healthy marriage.
I want to be a psychologist who is on top of all the latest research, goes to all the conferences and trainings; who engages constantly with other professionals for consultation and growth.
I want to be an active and engaged business owner who is flexible in creating programs that help make deep changes in people's life. I want to be available to do things when they need to be done, be on top of all the accounting, follow up, and able to network with all the amazing businesses and people working for change in the city.
But then my mind keeps going; I want to be the best sister, daughter, friend... on and on and on until I've create an army of expectations and things to do! And as I step out to conquer everything in front of me I'm hit with the reality of my limits.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, one me.
No matter how hard I try I am not every women, it is not all in me. Instead I see the pile of all, always and never and I realize there is no way to be all the things I want to be. So what do I do? Scrap all my goals and just settle for less than what I want under the harsh reality that I'm limited? Or ignore the truth, light the candle on both ends and constantly be in a state of anxiety waiting to burn out and fail?
Neither of these choices gets me closer to the life I want, in fact they are the exact opposite! So I'll tell you what I'm trying to do and it's based on the years of training and work I've done as a clinical psychologist. This has been the ultimate practice what you preach moment for me. It's the one thing I don't have time for.
I'm embracing my limits.
Donald Winnicott a family researcher from the 1950’s knew all about the social pressure for perfection. His research centered on the concept of the "good enough" mother. During a time when it was all the rage to blame all the problems of the child on faulty parents; Winnicott posited that it was actually good when parents were imperfect. Parents who didn't always respond perfectly to their children's demands created the space for their child to adapt to the reality of distress, to tolerate that distress and to self-soothe. There will be times when problems don't get fix and when help is delayed. If we respond too perfectly we set others (and ourselves) up for unrealistic expectations which leaves those we want to help frustrated or, at worst, unprepared to deal with issues.
The “good enough” philosophy is true in many circumstances, not just parenting. We forget that we are limited and that others are limited too. We place unrealistic demands on ourselves and everyone around us. We expect change and support to be as instantaneous as googling something. A professor from my graduate school, Dr. Jeffery Bjorck, always told us to "embrace your limits as God's gift to you."
How are limits a gift?
Being limited is why laundry is piled up, projects aren't getting completed and our email inbox is in the hundreds. Limits highlight our lack and our need. This is exactly where the gift is hidden. Limits are the gifts that connect us to authentic community. Embracing our limits means learning ask for help and to wait for it. Our need requires us to seek excellence not in isolation but with others. They are limited like we are and embracing that limitation creates the ability for us to have grace to work together versus in opposition. This is scary for most of us who, unlike the child with the 'good enough' parent, have experienced abandonment, rejection or worse.
So how do we embrace our limits?
Being limited means we need rest, help and hope. Here are the first few practical steps that I'm taking.
First, I'm trying to understand my limitations. This as simple as realizing how much sleep I need, when I work my best, how often I need to eat, take a break or switch tasks. Noticing when I want to check out or when my motivation lacks also helps show me when I’m getting close to a limit.
Focusing on the things that give me joy, relaxation and connection help me accept my limits by addressing them with things that soothe. Accepting that I can’t do everything doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. Instead of trying to cram my day full of as many things as possible form my to-do list I try to focus on what I am accomplishing and which tasks hold the most meaning for me. Understanding the values that guide why I wear all these hats helps me take care of the person underneath them.
Lastly I’m embracing those that I’m working with. This brings in my spiritual beliefs, my family and my community. Everything I do is interconnected to the relationships that I value and having something bigger than me to rest on is a primary source of soothing and a great motivator for me to do things well. When we are trapped in our individual "I have to be everything" we start drowning in our loneliness, stress and frustration. When we recognize our need for support and find others who are able to support us, even if it's delayed, the effort we put in not only blesses us but it blesses those who surround us. When we are able to support others we receive this amazing side effect of feeling joy and pleasure when they succeed!
I'd love to say I've gone through those steps and I'm done; totally fixed and balance. But balance isn't a onetime thing if you're constantly on the tightrope. Balance is a constant return to the core no matter how you have to waver to keep from falling.
So those are my goals to keep myself in check. I am trying to hold tightly to the reality of my weaknesses, relying on my community for support and help, and focusing on my values while I move towards my goals.
How are you embracing your limits?