To do or not to do? Let's just be!
Organised people make lists.
Organised people get things done.
Organised people are successful.
There are a couple of weeks until the children break up. Lots of lovely things on the calendar and our long awaited holiday to look forward to. Better make a list. Don't want to miss anything, forget to do something or let anyone down. I must get through this. Then I can relax. I'll be OK when I can finally relax.
Sound familiar? If like me you've spent most of your life living to a time table. Personally I'm talking about school, followed by college and then teaching in a school for the majority of my adult life. If you can relate to that in anyway, you will probably be a list maker. It's how we get things done. I am confessing right now to being a fully paid up member of the "to do" list club. I've loved lists and spent a fortune on beautiful pens and notepads to make them! Not content with a to-do, I love a check list. You know the type. A sort of progress check point. An interim review! I've been to training on list making and how to prioritise, order and even schedule the things to do by adding timings! I've delivered the training myself and shared my top tips for time management and how to get stuff done.
The worst list of all? The one you make in the moments before you go to sleep. A list showing all the things you didn't manage to do today. The roll-over list. The list of shame. You might even wake up in the night and add to it! Clammy from the nightmare of anxiety and bracing yourself, through one-eye-open sleep, for the post-it note action plan of tomorrow. This is no ordinary list. This is self harm. I'm not meaning to be dramatic. There is of course, a time and place for a list and they can be most useful.
I'm talking about the bigger consequences of what we think we need to do.The problem with list making is it's not about the list! List making is about our compulsion to plan an action in order to soothe our emotional insecurities. The notion that springing into some sort of activity is the way to secure happiness, fulfilment and success. To put this in list terms. It's as if there is a prize at the end of the list. We will be granted the gift of deserving, contentment and love, if only we tick the actions off.
If you've followed any of these stories so far, you will be familiar with THOUGHT being the key to the door out of feeling. My journey through the pea-souper of thought has revealed a lot of truth, brought insights great and small and shed huge weights from my tired, list-making shoulders.
The big question here isn't really about the list making addiction, it's about the culture of deficit we innocently live by and enrol our families, colleagues and friends into. By that I mean being constantly aware of what isn't there. In our personal and professional lives. What we don't own, haven't achieved or can't seem to find in a loved one. Looking for greener grass and sometimes throwing it all in for pastures and people new. The negative equity life account.
Living in the red
Here are some favourite deficit thoughts patterns from my history books:
My hair isn't straight enough to be normal like the other girls.
I haven't worked hard enough to get everything right in this test.
I haven't managed any exercise today.
I haven't had enough sleep this week.
I haven't called my parents.
I haven't written my Christmas thank you letters.
I didn't tick off the list!
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TODAY?
How sad to start and end each day with what we think we haven't done! WE also think this is the secret to feeling normal, successful and worthy. When your partner comes in at the end of the day and asks the dreaded question. Why do so many of us here it as "What haven't you done today?". We respond from that place of deficit.
Why do we do this?
The key is to understand where the drive to be DOING is coming from.
The drive to DO is our built in numbing medication and as we know, the trouble with medication is it can often mask the real issue. The issue is our feelings. As always, created by thoughts. We are constantly trying to out-wit these feelings by running away from them. Why run so fast? Because they are uncomfortable. But uncomfortable doesn't have to mean, be afraid. We need uncomfortable to be able to function fully and wholly as a human being. It's in our blueprint. Because its from this place of uncertainty that true clarity, fulfilment and learning is born. These feelings are quite simply the human body reacting to chemicals being released from the brain. What we feel emotionally, is felt in the body as a physical sensation first. It's the actual sensation we are responding to. On this occasion, our choice to numb the feeling is to DO something. To throw an action at the feeling and try to displace it. All in the name of making ourselves better. We see this and try it from an early age. Some of my most uncomfortable battles started at primary school, the first time I was running from a bully and the first time I was running from my height compared to the other children.
And the outside world, or should I say the world outside of ourselves, is something we think we have to overcome, to find our true happiness. And that all adds up to a whole heap of doing. The world is a big thing to challenge after all.
True contentment, wanting for nothing and gentle peace isn't out there to find. It never has been. It was inside each and every one of us all along.
So rather than chalking up a never ending story of things to be done. Take a moment or two to be fully present in the uncomfortable feeling. Just be. It will only last that short time. Insights will come, little flickers and full-on lightbulb moments. It really is the moments that matter. Not the milestones. If only I'd have known this as a child. Perhaps I did and it just needed to be nurtured? Perhaps that's why it matters so much to me now? For children, for their teachers, for everyone. There's no need and no point in forever looking for a fixing plan. No toolkits are required. Simply do nothing, sit in the uncomfortable zone. It will be short lived. It's part of our biology. It's yours and my resilience within. It's never about what you can do. It's all about just BEING. And that's the buzz we all crave every day, believe me.
LEARNING TO BE, JUST BE!
For a bit more about the biology behind our uncomfortable feelings and why they really matter, please sign up to the mailing list for a mid week taster. Thank you for reading.
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