“You can do anything, but not everything.” – David Allen
I’ll never forget the day I realized I can’t do it all. I was driving to a meeting for a charity fundraiser after a long day with the kids, and I had this moment where I wished I was sick. I wished that I would be struck down with a non-life threatening illness because I just needed a break. I was mentally drained, physically exhausted, and wishing my responsibilities would shrink for a few days. It might sound terrible to wish for illness, but I didn’t see any other option or a break in the foreseeable future. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was sick. I had a serious case of burnout.
The following day, I had this huge realization that something in my life had to change. There was no way I could sustain the level I was working at.
As we shift into different phases of life, the demands on us – our responsibilities – will inevitably change. There was a time when I could wake up at five o’clock in the morning, and that would provide the space I needed for a little writing and some quality me time — enough to refresh me before my children woke up and real life kicked in. Then I had my third child, and that all changed. Here I am, almost four years later, and five o’clock still doesn’t work for various reasons while at the same time, my dreams or goals haven’t changed either. It’s as if my dreams and my reality are at an impasse!
Millennials strike me as the most likely victims of this particular phenomenon because it’s been drilled into our psyche that we can have it all. We believe that we can do the normal day-to-day things we need to do to survive, and we can have a family, chase our dreams, live our passion and thrive. (Not too much to ask, is it?)
David Allen hit the nail on the head when he said, “You can do anything, but not everything.”
Many of us are at a point now, or will someday be at a point in the future, where we can’t do everything we want to do, and need to do at the same time.
The burnout kicks in and then the real challenge hits us: we realize that something has to give. If we want to continue to progress toward our dreams and goals, we have to remove something that isn’t serving us from the equation.
That concept may feel terrifying, but really, it doesn’t have to be forever — just for this season of your life. We have to ask ourselves what our priorities are. What in our lives are absolutely non-negotiable (jobs that pay the bills, caring for children, going to school), and what we could maybe live without or what is causing less productivity. You might not always like the answer, but sometimes it’s the only way to move forward.
Now that I’ve had this realization, I’m constantly shifting my priorities, adding or removing things as necessary. There is freedom in not being overly attached and really understanding that you can always go back to something eventually.
Just recently I made some very small changes that were killing my productivity as I write my second novel: deleting all social media apps from my phone, and turning text notifications off during the 9-5 hours. I also made a huge change within my family, a change that I could never have imagined a year ago: in September all three of my sons will be attending public school after spending their entire education homeschooling them.
Humans are creatures of habit. We like to know what’s coming, and often we like to have control over how it unfolds. But life simply doesn’t work like that. Nothing is stagnant, everything is impermanent, and we need to be flexible and willing to make shifts in our life: big and small, in order to avoid burnout and continue following our passion and chasing our dreams.
So my question for you today is this: What are you willing to give up to move closer to your dream?