Sometimes you feel completely overwhelmed and don’t know where to start your work, so you sink under a mountain of emails and quietly, calmly wave a white flag at your own life. Here’s a really freaking helpful question to move you out of overwhelm and into action:
What will your future self thank you for?
The answer to this question doesn’t have to be a big deal or a major life decision. In fact, your future self will probably be more grateful that you did 10 minutes of meditation today than that you committed to go on a silent one-week retreat six months from now.
Here a few always-on answers to keep on tap from your future, ever-so-thankful self!
Keep marketing. Continuing to market far past the point where you’re comfortable is hard, hard work — but it’s worth it. Stay on it. Whether it’s making a marketing calendar, starting an e-mail list, actually communicating with the people on that e-mail list, letting out your weird, holding a sale, or simply being consistent with showing your work on social media, marketing is one of those things that future self never regrets.
Embrace nutrition. The long journey to the body inevitably means paying closer attention to what makes you feel good (chia seeds and coconut oil, woot!) and what makes you feel crappy (sugar makes me weep exactly 3 hours after consuming it. My scientific research involves making sure of this at least once a week, just to be certain nothing has changed). Your future self will also thank you for having sex, which releases a gorgeous cocktail of hormones that brighten your mood and make you a whole lot more fun to be around.
Create and hold boundaries. These ordinary, everyday decisions create a structure that prevents overwhelm, makes room for your truest work, and keeps your phone from taking over your life. Boundaries also keep clients who insist on texting you and Facebook messaging you and e-mailing you at 3am from expecting an immediate response. More about reclaiming your time and energy through boundary-making here.
Change your sheets. Especially when you leave for vacation, and then you get to come back to that deep blissful ‘sleep in my own bed’ delight.
Embrace stillness. When you get in touch with your interior continent — the parts of you that no one else can know unless you explore and express them — you’re more closely connected to your intuition and more likely to make decisions that your future self will enjoy. Stressed-out, hasn’t-had-a-minute-to-breathe-in-a-week-you isn’t likely to make the decisions that end in deep fulfillment and unbridled joy.
Move. Not run-seven-miles-to-punish-yourself-for-eating-a-cupcake-that-one-time move. Just move like, be in your body and see how it feels. Maybe that’s yoga, maybe that’s running, maybe that’s Qoya, maybe that’s taking a long walk around the neighborhood. Maybe it’s going to a class at the gym, and maybe it’s swimming in the ocean. How can you connect with your body without punishment and without making yourself wrong for being human? Can you view your body and its current state with something like tenderness?
Show your work. Maybe you think your work isn’t ready to be seen (hint: no one does), or asshole brain says you need a new website before you can show anyone anything you’ve done, or you’re planning an epic 52-day blog series to showcase every single thing you made during every single week of last year.
Start now. Right now.
By the time you would have started, you’ll be halfway through your next project, and future self can high five you from six months on via time machine.
Stop the ‘busy’ overwhelm. Make ‘busy’ a bad word, right up there on the forbidden list with racial slurs and hate words. ‘Busy’ is the box you can put your whole life into when you don’t want anyone to question what’s inside. It hides all the pieces you’d rather not sort through, like time’s junk drawer, and it means you remain unseen by others and by yourself under cover of endless scheduling and obligation.
‘Busy’ makes you tired, makes you sick — quite literally, as it means you’re running your body into the ground — makes you resentful, and weighs you down with obligations.
‘Busy’ and ‘focused’ are not the same.
Someone who’s ‘busy’ for 10 hours a day at work won’t necessarily accomplish as much as someone who’s ‘focused’ for 4 hours a day at work. It’s the difference between having browsers open and scrolling through Facebook and turning off the internet entirely, or going to the grocery store with a time limit and a shopping list instead of wandering the aisles in search of sustenance.
You don’t have to describe yourself as ‘busy’ ever again, even when your days are full and your life is brimming with activity. You don’t have to throw yourself onto the heap of drudgery that is your overbooked schedule and pretend to care.
When in doubt, do less. You can turn off your phone notifications. You can power your life, your phone, or your laptop down for at least an hour a day. You can create space to hear yourself think and feel. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not what most people seem to be doing, but it does mean that you regain intimacy with yourself and your own thoughts — your interior continent and what lies within.
Read all about Steer Your Ship here, or drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got any questions whatsoever.
4 of the 6 spots are already taken, so please don’t do that ‘I’ll save this for later’ thing. 😉