For far too long, I bought into this Western concept that the key to fulfillment and success is more–doing more with my time, having more money and just all in all being more as a person. Unfortunately, this premise is flawed. More does not equate to better, and chasing more, for me and for many others, is all to often rooted in the idea that we are not enough as we are. Recently, I have switched gears from seeking out more to striving to slow down and lead an intentional life.
Living intentionally, for me, means ditching the laundry list of “shoulds” and instead doing things that feel purposeful to me. This also translates to allotting space for breathing room in my days. Rather than filling every spare moment, I make a point to clear out parts of my day for doing nothing. By doing this, I have a greater sense of clarity, inner peace and my ability to find satisfaction in the simple things has grown tenfold. Here are three shifts that I have made to facilitate more breathing room in my life.
Freeing up evenings for things that rejuvenate me
For me, this means wrapping up work, homework and/or side hustles by 5:30 p.m. at the latest. For years I have filled my evenings with some sort of obligation, whether it be fitting in a few Instacart runs after my 9-5, heading to the library to do homework for one of my classes, or simply staying late at my day job to finish up tasks around the office. And only recently am I realizing that regardless of the benefits that I may accrue from pushing my work day out later in the evening, the cost simply isn’t worth it. The time between 5 and 10 p.m. is a sacred space that, if utilized intentionally, can serve as a buffer that softens the toll that the demands of work and school take on my body and mind. Here I can connect with my family, detach from my devices, and practice the art of just being. My ideal evening consists of playing soccer with my 5-year-old son, Roman, releasing any stress from the work day with a yin yoga practice, taking a hot Epsom salt bath and winding down with some fairy tales before I tuck Roman into bed.
Staying off of my phone during gaps in the day
I, like many others living in a smartphone age, have this habit of reaching for my phone any time I find myself with nothing to do. The thing is, these brief moments of nothingness are opportunities to rest, check in with myself, and connect with the other humans around me. By filling every spare moment with mindless scrolling, I miss out on the sweetness of doing nothing, an aspect of life so valued in Italy that there is a special term reserved for this practice, il dolce far niente. Lately, instead of reaching for my phone on my lunch break or waiting in a lobby, I’ll allow myself to space out, sometimes I’ll even doze off—I’ve set up a nap station in the back of my car with blankets and pillows just for this occasion. When the day picks up again, having rested, I can charge in clear-headed and better equipped to handle whatever comes my way.
Reassessing my priorities
Having the tendency to overestimate what I can do in proportion to the amount of time allotted for a given activity has worked for and against me over the years. It has caused me to dare to take on more and thus achieve more than I would think possible. This is largely what has carried me through things like training for and running a marathon when my son was still a nursing infant, going to college while working a day job, building a writing career on the side, raising a small child and trying to maintain a sense of mental stability amidst it all.
However, this has come at the cost of my ability to feel joyful and present in the moment. In the past I have put so much pressure on myself to be excellent, that I began feeling burdened by my goals. The solution to this for me came in the form of distinguishing what it is that I actually want from what I think I should do, be, or have to win approval from others around me. From here I can tailor my days around what is most important to me and forgo anything that isn’t apart of the larger vision that I have for my life.
These three shifts that I have made are ultimately about choosing to go all in on the idea that I am doing enough, I have enough and I am enough as I am. From this viewpoint, I do not feel the need to hustle for a sense of self worth and can then reclaim my time as my own. Time in the evenings to take Epsom salt baths and play with my son is important to me, as is having space in the afternoons to take a nap in the back of my car. I still have goals and am actively working towards these goals, however, I am not consumed by them to the point of losing the being aspect of life as a human.
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Photo: Michelle via Unsplash and Sarah Brown via Unsplash