I have a wee, tiny confession to make. Sometimes I yell at my son. Loud, angry, guilt-inducing yelling.
Until recently, Number 1 Son has been used to succeeding easily in school, waiting until the last minute to get things done and pulling great results out of the fire. This year, he’s moved to a gifted program at a new school, and, well, you know. The challenge doubled. The homework tripled. The classmates shone. And – the confidence plummeted. And suddenly, my brilliant son is making dumb mistakes, like forgetting to write down his homework assignments, forgetting to turn in work he has completed. Etc. Very frustrating. So I’ve been yelling, mostly “WHY??? WHY??? WHY???”
Whenever the yelling possesses me, Number 1 Son feels guilty and embarrassed – and he shuts down and stops listening. And then he spends time wallowing, rather than doing what needs to get done.
Recently my husband and I have attempted to remain calm in the face of Number 1’s school- related bungles, to remove the judgment and guilt around these bungles. Instead, we’ve tried to help Number 1 think of solutions, ideas, new approaches. And, of course, the outcome is better. Number 1 Son focuses on solutions, rather than on how terrible his life has become. We move forward. (Expert parents out there are saying, well, duh. But I am not an expert parent – yet.)
This experience made me reflect on some of the weird emotional baggage that I (and others?) carry around regarding so-called faults or weaknesses. Maybe, instead of letting guilt or embarrassment about these faults govern my activities, I can either (1) choose to accept them or (2) do something to change. Why do I need all the drama? Does the emotion help anything?
I think practicing self-acceptance in particular could be critical to seeking and finding a calling because:
- Self-acceptance gives you back energy and time: For me, emotional baggage generates a lot of “I should’s” and those take up time and emotional energy. But if I accept that I am not the perfect mom/co-worker/whatever, and I will never . . . volunteer to bake cookies for school, give money to charities outside our top 5, spend extra time commiserating with the whiny/needy co-worker, then I feel comfortable when I delete those emails asking for volunteers, rather than hanging on to them to “think about it.” (and I get a cleaner email box) I can quickly turn down the telephone solicitations (rather than inventing excuses not to donate) and I feel comfortable asking to be removed from lists. I toss snail mail requests instead of letting them pile up on the kitchen counter ‘just in case’. I don’t waste time or emotional energy wondering if I should do X, Y, and Z because I am confident with choosing to do A, B, and C. And if A, B, and C are in the sweet spot for my calling, won’t it make me happier and more effective than spending the time doing X, Y and Z grudgingly?
- Self-acceptance helps you focus: If I am confident that I am doing the most important thing, then I can focus on getting it done, and doing it right. The tiny, subtle pull – and the distraction – of the many “should but don’t want to” items lessens or disappears – and I can enter that wonderful state of flow. Flow = Good. More Flow = Better Living.
- Self acceptance makes you more effective: If I’m focusing on activities and work related to my strengths and passions, I accomplish more. For some reason, we make the most progress when we build on our strengths, rather than trying to improve our weaknesses. There was a study done a while ago that showed that, while all students can improve reading speeds after taking a speed reading course, the students who were already the fastest readers improved the most. Similarly, by focusing on our ‘sweet spots’ we do more of what matters to us. Doing more of what matters is the path to a good life.
Soooo, what to do? My suggestion: take a look at that infinite to do list. Are there any items that are on the list – have been on there forever – just because you feel you ‘should’ do them or you feel guilty about taking them off? Delete them from the list – permanently! Defend the list from ‘should do’ encroachment. I hereby give you permission. And get to work on one of the joyful items that give your life meaning. Focus! Do what matters – to you.
p.s. – on a somewhat related note, PJ over at Unclutterer posted a wonderful article about Eva Zeisel, who released her dinnerware design for Royal Stafford at the ripe old age of 101! Do you think this woman wastes her time on guilt?
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NaNoWriMo status: Argh! Even more behind at 10k words. But having a LOT of fun thinking of plot twists and childhood scares. Need to write crappier (faster).