All work and no play …

I’m in the process of becoming trained as a yoga teacher, and the nine-month-long training includes writing a number of papers. I’ll post them here because, well, that’s what I do. The fifth writing assignment was a reflection on the book “Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brene Brown.

Earlier today I read a blurb for a New York Times story that grabbed my attention: “One of the biggest complaints in modern society is being overscheduled, overcommitted and overextended. Ask people at a social gathering how they are and the stock answer is ‘super busy,’ ‘crazy busy’ or ‘insanely busy.’ Nobody is just ‘fine’ anymore.” Because I was in the middle of five or six other things, I bookmarked the article to read later.

I’m a goal-oriented, driven people pleaser, and as a result I tend to overcommit myself. Many times those commitments are to good things, things I’m excited to do. But those obligations often steal my joy. I’m more focused on completing the task than I am on enjoying the process.

So as I read Brene Brown’s words about cultivating both play and rest, I was reminded of how quick I am to skew priorities. Much as Brown and her family prioritize sleep, time together, meaningful work and time to piddle, I recognize that my life is much more satisfying when those things take precedence. But I also keep a goals sheet that I refer to frequently.

These things aren’t necessarily counterproductive; most of my goals are directly tied to satisfying work. There was a time when I walked away from my lifelong dream of becoming a professional writer. After two years of putting that goal aside, I realized how much less myself I felt. Pursuing that work is an important part of me. f I were to emulate the Brown family’s “ingredients for joy and meaning” list, that would be near the top.

The danger is when I allow the work to crowd out other, sometimes even more important, ingredients. I’ve realized that in recent years, and my 30s have so far been focused on striving for a more balanced life with more thoughtfully drawn boundaries. Simultaneously, I’m learning that imperfection is OK. Perfection is a myth, a standard that isn’t humanly possible. By allowing myself to let go of others’ expectations for what I should do or who I should be, I’m better able to take ownership of my goals, my time and my life.

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