Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you do the things that you do in a day? I am a chronic over-doer. I want to be the best filmmaker, wife, daughter, friend, colleague and the list goes on…! I want everything to be perfect, on budget, on time and more than lovely; however, these “requirements” often come at the expense of my own well-being.
Ironically, the harder we try to make things ideal, the more we wear ourselves out and diminish our ability to enjoy the things we are working towards achieving.
Then, by the time we get to where we initially blazed towards, we are fizzled out riding in on fumes across the finish line. How does this happen?
It’s 3:15pm. You haven’t eaten lunch. You’re craving your third espresso-laden drink. A headache is setting in, and your eyes are getting blurry from staring at the monitor. ‘Just one more email/ call/ paragraph/ [fill in the blank]. Then I can get up and take a break,’ you tell yourself.
Does this sound familiar? Or maybe you’re racing through the airport to catch your connection en route to a very important business meeting, grabbing a pre-made sandwich as you run by a food kiosk and barely making it to the gate in time. Or maybe you’ve been cleaning the house all day, running the kids all over town and are now staring at a sink full of dishes as the clock ticks closer to dinnertime.
Whatever it is that demands your time, an energy output assessment may be overdue. When I stopped and evaluated why I had become increasingly burned out, though I had such a strong drive and desire to do so much, I realized I had a disproportionate amount of expectations on myself, a lack of boundaries and I was striving for perfection.
I came to realize that I was doing many things in life out of obligation, due to feeling the need to perform, in order for others to value and love me.
When I realized the lie I was letting myself believe, I had the power to change. It took practice and consistently checking my motives, but it has provided so much additional mental space and free time in my life.
No one was asking me to do all the things I felt obligated to do. My husband doesn’t expect a gourmet meal (or any meal at all) after a long day of both of us working. My boss wouldn’t fire me if I told her I needed a personal day. And my friends wouldn’t stop talking to me if I said I couldn’t meet up on a particularly busy day.
Working hard and having high standards are two great traits we should possess, but when fear drives them, they can distort our perceptions of how we are expected to behave.
We don’t need to be perfect, because Christ already is. He covers our imperfections, and as long as we try our best and trust in Him for the rest, we can allow ourselves to make a mistake.
Our intrinsic value is not based on how well we perform but rather the fact that we are made in God’s image, and He loves us no matter what we do or don’t do.
Recently, I began asking myself three things before I take on a new assignment or personal project. The results have been strikingly eye-opening!
1. Is this a good use of my time?
We spend so much time in our short, 24-hour day doing things we must: work, tasks, eating, bills, laundry, commuting, sleeping, exercising (ideally!). We have roughly only six “free hours” in a weekday. Make sure you’re not spending time on something that has minimal meaning.
Whether it’s gossiping about a frustrating work situation instead of praying over it it or scrolling through social media too long while putting of chores, don’t waste your time. Pursue discipline and be cognizant of what you are doing throughout your day. Then, be bold enough to tell yourself “No” when you recognize habits that don’t provide valuable returns in your life.
2. Does this truly matter?
God has given each us of the daily mission to love others like Christ loved us and bring his Kingdom to Earth by how we live our lives here and now. This is a massive calling! Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is there to guide us on our supernatural assignment, but how much time do we spend doing things that have no long term benefit?
It may be watching mindless TV, because we are too tired to get off the couch or buying the latest makeup product that we don’t need and probably won’t use. Ask yourself, ‘Does what I’m doing really matter in the grand scheme of my day?’ You might be surprised at how many things may initially seem important but have little lasting value when you stop to challenge their worth.
3. Does this bring me joy?
There are certainly things we have to do that do not bring us inherent joy; however, we can set boundaries on what we are able and willing to give of ourselves to others in order to protect our precious time so that we can experience joy in ways that refuel us.
Maybe it’s blocking off your calendar for 20 minutes to take a prayer walk, enjoy some fresh air and clear your head during the day. Maybe it’s taking a class in photography to pursue your creative side. Or maybe it’s saving a little money every month to treat yourself to a vacation. No matter how big or small, you can find joy in each day, whether in a smile or a sunset. Just make sure you make the time to experience it!
Being self-aware of how and why you do certain things takes practice, but you’ll soon find it refreshing and so helpful to zero in on areas of your life that may be sucking time and joy from you.
The more you protect your time, the more of it you’ll have to pursue things you truly want to. You’ll also be able to better enjoy the beautiful life you’ve been blessed with and share it with those around you.
Andrea is a filmmaker, writer, and activist based in Washington, D.C. She co-founded an anti-trafficking organization in Chicago, Traffick Free, has traveled the country creating award-winning videos on helping victims of crime and is currently producing a film exploring the safety of chemicals in personal products and cosmetics called, Pretty Ugly. For more information visit www.prettyuglythefilm.com.