I remember when I was in a corporate job and I traveled a lot. When I say “a lot” I mean every week. There were too many trips to remember but there was one particular leg that I did a lot. The flight attendants knew me by name and I knew their names as well. They thought I was a writer because I was constantly tapping away at my laptop. I worked all the time, never saw my dogs, wasn’t practicing yoga at the time (it hadn’t found me yet), had a few extra pounds on me, realized I had mild hypertension and wasn’t sleeping all that well. But, I had an important sounding job title, a good salary and nice clothes. My self-esteem was getting the perceived “boost” it craved and I felt like I was on a career path that was consistent with my future vision for myself.
Fast forward many years later and I’m working for myself. I’ve left my corporate career behind but continue to keep the same aggressive work schedule for myself. The difference being I work for myself and the projects and tasks are self-generated but the underlying “obsessive-ness” with “getting it all done” continues to drive me. My strength is my organizational ability but any strength taken to it’s extreme can become a problem.
The funny thing about working for myself is this: I very rarely go to a yoga class. Now, that might not seem strange but considering I’m a yoga teacher and I’m teaching all the time, you’d think I’d make some time to actually go to a class. But I’ve struggled with this since I started working for myself back in October. I add it to my list of things to do, set reminders, book it in my schedule but often something else will come up and I’ll let that take precedence. I recently remember going to a class, “the event” that it was really, and by the time I reached the end of class and was resting in shavasana, tears were rolling down my cheeks, as I realized how important it is that I take care of myself, above everything else.
I meet with many people in the context of group and private yoga sessions. I regularly hear some of the reasons why people struggle to make wellness more of a priority in their life. My challenge to book time to take yoga class might be the same challenge you’re currently facing. Sure, maybe you’re working for someone else, but the issue is still the same: putting yourself first. Maybe you have children and you can’t find a babysitter. Maybe you are short of extra funds and can’t afford it. Maybe it’s not yoga; maybe for you, it’s getting to the gym, or running, or going for a walk. Maybe it’s eating healthy that you can’t get your arms around but you figure eating unhealthy food on the run is the price you’re paying to get ahead.
I once heard a psychologist speaking about her work in personal coaching sessions with clients. She took us through an exercise where we had to write down a habit we’d like to create in our life or a goal. Then, we listed all the things we’d have to give up in order to reach that goal. Then we had to write out how giving those things up would make us feel. It was very interesting because often the things we feel we’re ‘gaining’ by doing something that we know is unhealthy are really pretty lame when compared to what we’d gain if we stuck to our goal.
For instance, let’s say you want to start exercising. You write down all the reasons why it’s hard to work out: you’d have to give up sleep and get up an hour early, or you’d have to book a babysitter and you can never find one, or you’d get behind in your emails, or your boss would be angry that you’re leaving work on time (note that I didn’t say early). Then, you might identify how these reasons would make you feel. It might be something like, “I’ll feel anxious if I don’t stay at work until 8 every night staying caught up on my email (that was always my excuse); or “I’ll feel guilty if I leave my child at night with a babysitter so I can exercise;” or, “My boss will look me over for the next promotion or feel like I’m shrugging my responsibilities if I leave on time.”
Once we start to identify these feelings, we can start to get at the heart of the matter when it comes to what’s getting in the way of reaching our goal. And, if it’s not even the idea of reaching our goal but more of the idea of just starting on the path, that’s really the same thing. Getting started towards any goal gives us the much-needed momentum so we can start to feel like we’re accomplishing something. And, once we start feeling that way, we start to feel happier and it helps us stay committed.
We all want to get somewhere. Whatever that looks like to you is unique to you. We’re all making sacrifices to get where we’re going. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself: What are you giving up to get where you’re going?