Say Goodbye to Overwhelm: 5 Tips to A Joyful Journey
As I build my business and writing career, I struggle to find balance, or at least a sustainable pace. Two or three times a week it seems as if a. it’s taking too long and b. it’s taking too much.
At points along the week, I feel like I will crack. Other times, I’m begging for something to crack just so I don’t have to choose where to make a break.
Still, I push on rather anemically at times and boldly at other times.
The one thing I know for sure is I can’t shake this dream. I spent a decade trying to give it up like a bad habit. But then it keeps saving me, over and over. Kind of like trying to give up a great dog or a best friend.
Let me share what has helped me along this journey, what I’m practicing with daily. I figured out a few things and maybe they’ll help you in your own dream building.
#1 Tune in to the moment
Really be here and now, with whatever is coming up, with whatever I’m doing. (But what if I don’t like what I’m doing? Look more closely at it and ask why?) You are here now, so let tomorrow take care of itself. This moment needs your attention and awareness
Ah, what’s in a moment? According to the Buddha, everything. There’s nothing else really. That’s hard to believe when my mind is filled with other moments from the past or hopes for the future. And then there is the amount of time not being very content or happy with the current moment. So, it’s a struggle that tools like meditation, writing, yoga, exercise, and other on-the-spot practices help with. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.
For now, let’s look at Now. It’s the only thing you’re guaranteed. This breath, this split second. What are you doing with it? Are you treating yourself with aggression? Are you leaning in to your curiosity?
The moment, the now, requires effort and focus. Maybe you think you can’t focus. Can you focus on this one breath, second, moment? Tune in to it, dial it in like a radio station with a manual tuner — not these fancy new digital dials that only pick up the strong stable waves. Check into the moment and see what it calls for? Action? Relaxation? Rest? Contemplation? I
When you do something — really do it. Be there for it. When you write, write. When you eat, eat. Do the damn thing and be with it all the way through, not checking stuff on your phone to distract you.
Make a choice and align with this moment and see what it asks of you or what you ask of it. Trust that there is wisdom in it, something deeper than our habitual patterns and restlessness can understand. Got a knot in your belly or a flutter in your chest? Read the signal. What’s it telling you?
See if you experience true reality, beyond your own ego. Does that sound like a lot and maybe you don’t understand? That’s okay. As you go along, you’ll start to see how it works. So tune in. Then take action.
#2 Tune out to outcome and goal lines
No future-spinning because what it does is cause a lot of heartache and grief.
Ah, the desired outcome. I wrestle with this one harder than anything else. I’ve also learned that the collective “we” and the solitary “I” are not very good at predicting the future.
Why is it that some of us are so easily transported to the greener grass of a dream?
The last few months I’ve begun to really focus on the present moment. I don’t want to miss this moment, when I’m actually writing, actually engaging with material that matters to me. It will be super-cool and super different when I achieve my dream, but who can say if it will happen in weeks, months or years? Ten years ago, I thought it was right around the corner. That doesn’t make the past ten years a failure. Not at all.
We learn all the time. That’s what the moment is for, and that’s how we ready for the next moment. There will be difficulties we can’t imagine if we get the outcome we’ve ached for. So we keep learning.
There is nothing but this moment. This one. Right here. Right now. My mantra when I start spinning off into months or a year from now is simply “Be here. Be now.” And I breathe deeply till I am here and now.
A few weeks ago, all the future spinning stopped for a week. I was more present than I’d ever been. It was June. The weather was balmy. I remember saying to a friend, “I just woke up on Tuesday and I was right here. I can’t even think beyond the moment, like literally the thoughts can’t form beyond this part of the day.”
I was crystal clear, yet a bit confused to be so Now. All those years of meditation and dropping the storyline fruiting in my life. But, slowly, a sense of unease crept in. Each moment was asking me to know it had my back. Well, hell. I’m in something of a limbo. I still can’t seem to speculate and that’s uncomfortable, but only like the present moment is uncomfortable for any kind of addict. You mean, I never get to predict the future again? That’s irritating, to say the very least.
So, what have I learned in this past month or so of trusting the moment enough to let go of outcome?
It doesn’t mean I sit still. It doesn’t mean I don’t have goals. It means I let go of what I can’t control.
It means I put one foot in front of the other and take each step. I can even say, “Hey, I’m writing this book.” Or “I’m quitting my job.” I can even say the date it is going to happen.
But if I set that date, it’s because I set the date, not because I can predicts, “I’m writing this book and I’m going to make this much money and sell this many copies.”
My body and my truth spot tell me all I need to focus on today. I tune in and get a pretty solid feeling about what matters most for the moment or the day. There’s some kind of magic going on in that process I don’t understand. I’ve decided I don’t need to. At this point, it hasn’t let me down. (see article here on the pendulum).
It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Sitting meditation helps a great deal to remind me.
I am aware of how much anxiousness stems from trying to control things instead of allowing them to arise and be as they are, for as long as they are. So, by giving up the false idea that I can control the outcome of things — including timelines, income, other people’s responses — is so liberating. Instead, I get to play! I get to be here, be now and enjoy what I’m doing, even when it isn’t all the rip-roaring fun I’d like to have.
Tune out the distraction of tomorrow and focus on today. Practice it often, and find the right kind of supports to build it into your moments until it becomes automatic. Drop the storyline and have some fun!
#3 Take small steps, one after the other
I wrote a post here about how small adds up (read it here). Prioritize for the day and do it. What is calling you today?
I’ve instituted having full weekends to myself for the rest of the summer. It was a ridiculously busy first half of the year where I took on too much that took me away from pursuing my dream. Having a big dream requires dozens of micro steps along the way. So, taking small steps is something I well know and I’m sure, whatever you’re working on is the same way. But it can reach a crisis point of overwhelm so easily. Hence, why we need to tune in and tune out.
Still, there are those details dialing us up and saying, “Hey you — what about me?”
The only thing I’ve found is to:
- break them up into one thing at a time, and then drill down deeper.
- give each of those small tasks their moment in the sun.
The task list. It can overwhelm, right? The reality is it supports your efforts. The reality is — those small steps are it. That’s what the dream actually looks like. So, do you enjoy them?
When you drop the outcome — of “hey, this thing I’m doing here is going to get me X” then you start enjoying the things for what they are. Follow that curiosity, even in or especially in the small steps.
How to do small steps? You know how. Take one thing you want to do. Write a book. Paint a room. Learn to cook. Now start learning and applying.
Even when you crest the mountain peak, you still have to come down the mountain and do whatever comes next. Life is a flow, a continuous, joyous flow.
Enjoy each moment of each small step, even those ones that you think you’ll never get.
#4 Lighten up
Ever critical of yourself for slowing down, for feeling too slow, not focusing hard enough or seeing results quickly enough? Lighten up. Gentleness is a gift all of us, personally and collectively. Aggression is not the same as boldness.
It’s too easy to bully ourselves. Have mercy, as the saying goes. Lighten up. You deserve it. Really. What does it accomplish if we are brutal to ourselves, forcing, pushing, pulling, shoving ourselves?
If you need a break, give yourself one. What’s the worst thing that will happen? It takes a little longer, or maybe it doesn’t. But this isn’t about reverse psychology. It’s about kindness towards ourselves and everyone around us.
We strive. We ache and yearn and long for. Try dropping it for a bit. Just a teencie-weencie moment, drop the driving ambition. I call mine my vague ambition. Not terribly precise or terribly motivating, just enough for me to feel alive and occasionally on fire, and often rough on myself. That old vague ambition’s been there long enough now, I can see through it, recognize it as wanting an outcome.
I’m not a knick-knack collector. But I had this friend once who gave me a tiny little statue-thingie- that says “Enjoy the Journey”. It sits in my kitchen windowsill, and when I wash dishes in the sink, hot soapy water, I remember to slow down, relax, be gentle, and quite frankly, just be.
How can you lighten up?
#5 Use your tools
Breathe. Meditate. Journal and write. Take a nap now and then (or every day). Walk in nature. Gather information, but don’t forget to turn off the flow of information each day and have some quiet time.
The tools are basically how we grow gently. Remember what they do for you.
Small steps applies to our tools, too. Micro-meditations are helpful. Center with the breath for a minute or two many times a day, basically using breath to anchor you, letting the mind follow it. Throw in simple stretches and a downward dog or two. Go for a walking meditation, dropping attention from the breath to the feet. Outside in the elements is a sure shot of vitality.
There’s freshness available to us with these short micro-practices, like a cool mist hitting your face and your spirit at the same time. Gorgeous!
So, there you have it. A few thoughts on how to chase your dream without overwhelm. Circumstances will change, but you can’t say how. So, relax, enjoy the journey, and be well.
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Love and kindness to you,
Author of multiple fiction and non-fiction books including “Unwinding Anxiety: Free Your Mind, Get Your Life Back”
Find out more at: www.mindfuljournal.net