Start your day with some simple changes.
We’ve all had those days (weeks, months) where nothing seems to go right. There are days when I feel like an awkward teenager. I can’t communicate clearly. I’m not getting the right things done. I’m distracted and frustrated with myself and others.
It’s maddening. And often times my recurring thought is, “Why is this so hard?” Okay, usually it’s, “Why is this so effing hard?”
Sometimes life is hard.
As nonprofiteers, we know difficulties and those we serve through our nonprofits know challenges. You work with clients who are trying to keep their utilities on or are advocating for a better education for their special needs child. You’re struggling to pay your bills as you work with those who are struggling to eat.
Divorce. Death. Loss. Caregiving. Securing funding to maintain a level of service. These are some of life’s real struggles.
For many other areas of life, it might just be noise you’ve created to keep you distracted from being focused, joyful, impactful. I don’t mean to minimize your stress, but most of it isn’t real.
Most of the time we create anxiety merely through choosing stress.
Recently I was working with a client who was frustrated with himself because he wasn’t organized enough. He’s just joined a new organization with a completely new job. So he’s learning new skills and trying to stay organized and productive as he does it. That’s a tall order for any new position.
The previous month, this client was committed to ending each day with prioritizing the work for the following day. It’s a powerful tool to ensure you’re getting the right work done, not just the busy work, and it only takes about 15 minutes each evening.
As the weeks passed, this client found himself working so long each day that he just left, completely wiped out from the day. And then would spend the first 6o to 90 minutes each morning trying to figure out where to start. Anxiety was the opening ballad for the day and exhaustion was the closing song. No wonder he felt stressed. He spent every morning telling himself how much he had to do, he didn’t have time to create his priorities because he had so much to do, and that he’ll never learn his new job because he has no time to reflect on his learning.
As his coach, I asked him about the importance of this practice for his values of productivity, organization, and learning. He was getting frustrated with me (himself?) when finally the light bulb went off: If I spend 15 minutes each evening prioritizing my next day, it will save me 225 to 375 minutes every. single. week. That’s 4 to 6 hours folks!
AAAAAAAAA-hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaa! [Do you hear the angels singing?!]
This gentleman had spent 6 hours every week telling himself HOW STRESSED HE WAS, instead of being organized, productive, and prioritized. Too many of us do this.
Stress is a choice. Choose something different.
The trick to making life less difficult, and less stressful, is to choose what you do want instead: joy, focus, creativity, peace, competence, achievement. By focusing on the positive and what we do want, it becomes clearer what we need to do to get there. And, of course, less stressful!
Now it’s your turn.
Practice this week focusing on what you do want. It can’t be, “I don’t want to be stressed.” It must be in the positive: I want to start my day feeling relaxed. I want to love my job. I want to eat chocolate ice cream and pickles for lunch. (Your colleagues might want you to brush your teeth before that 1 p.m. meeting) Give into your happiness and see what you notice about yourself.