It appears as if the world has woken up from its pandemic slumber.
A few months ago the streets were empty.
However, today, in my neighborhood, the restaurants have their windows and doors wide open and appear to be full of mostly happy, young, and vibrant people, excitedly reuniting with one another.
While acknowledging the very real hardships experienced by many—loss of loved ones, the uptick in teen anxiety, loneliness and depression, and pandemic-induced job uncertainty—many of my friends have quietly told me that they’ve actually enjoyed what was for them, “time off.”
They tell me that the slow down was a welcome reprieve from their never-ending busy schedules. That they don’t miss spending hours in traffic going to and coming home from work. That it’s been a relief not having to fill their calendars with never-ending social obligations.
They tell me that they now feel much more refreshed. That they have more time for tennis, their pelotons, and for doing nothing at all if they so choose. That because of the social pause, going out for a night on the town now no longer sounds like work. That soon they’ll happily get out of their yoga pants to do this, with the caveat that at some point, they might miss the easy excuse to stay home and chill, if they prefer to, instead.
Each time I hear them say “chill,” I immediately feel a pang of jealousy.
Maybe this is because, personally, when I look back at my year I don’t see much of that particular action. And I wonder… did I miss out? Did I miss out on chilling out? Did I spend any time just be-ing instead of doing doing doing all the time?
Flipping through last year’s day planner and what I do see is a lot of busyness.
But I smile when I look at the actions that filled my days—I took on new clients, did a lot of ghostwriting on topics dear to my heart, created new online courses, wrote chapters for two different Amazon bestsellers, recorded webinars for my alma mater as a guest expert, got a new health certification, and the list goes on and on.
Sure, I was busy.
But I wasn’t busy just for the sake of being busy.
I was busy being the person I want to be. And I was busy doing the work I love to do.
Frankly, looking back and deep down, I didn’t want any “time off.”
I didn’t want to hit pause.
After tuning in, within, I came to the conclusion that while I may not have slowed down, I didn’t miss out on anything that I didn’t want to miss out on.
And that because of this I actually feel more reinvigorated than ever.
How did this happen?
Over the last year, I’ve gained a deeper sense of connection, worth, and presence. Here’s how:
Prior to the pandemic, family walks were infrequent and met with groans. Today, my oldest son eagerly joins me each evening. He tells me about the books he’s reading and relives his past soccer matches while we walk through neighborhoods that still smell like spring. He knows where my favorite garden is and I know exactly where he’s going to ask me to get on my tiptoes to reach a few mulberries for him. Often, my youngest son and husband will join us on their bicycles, riding in circles around us, laughing and chatting and reveling in connection.
For years my husband and I bought organic blueberries and saved them for our kids. Organic blueberries are full of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals and are great for brain health. They’re not drenched in pesticides like conventionally-grown blueberries. My husband and I had an unspoken agreement that due to their higher cost we should deprive ourselves of these blueberries in the name of self-sacrifice. During the pandemic, it hit me that my husband’s and my health are not any less or more important than our kids. Today, I buy two or three large Costco-size containers each week with a large smile on my face knowing that we’ll have enough blueberries for anyone who wants them. Regardless of age, we are all worthy of quality food!
During the week I can be found sitting at my desk, the camera on, engaged in deep conversation with my clients. I turn off my phone, my notifications, and if I’m concerned about interruptions, I’ve occasionally locked my home-office door. During their sessions, my clients share their humanness with me. Nothing feels missing during these moments and time with them is tremendously fulfilling for me and uplifting for them. I don’t get distracted, my mind doesn’t wander and there’s nothing I’d rather do than be present with them.
When I look back over the last year, I’m grateful.
I filled my days with the people and things that mattered most to me.
Sure I’m aware that I may have missed most of Netflix. And that I didn’t spend hours staying up to date on all of the twists and turns of politics and evening news.
But I realize that I’m more than fine with this.
(If you filled your days with those things, please know that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it (unless you wish you hadn’t spent your time that way, and if so, then that’s where your potential lives moving forward.))
When I look at how full my days were, no question I was busy.
But I was busy being and feeling connected, worthy and present.
So I’m no longer harboring thoughts of possibly missing out on the global pause. I didn’t miss out. I was plugged in exactly where I wanted to be. And I was balancing busy with being in a way that worked for me.
Now, it’s your turn.
When you look back, regardless of whether you had ‘time off” or not, were you able to balance busy with being in a way that felt good to you? And today, can you give yourself the gift of being busy being the person you want to be, however it looks?
About the Author: Heather Aardema is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach living in Colorado with her husband and two grade-school boys. You can find more of her essays focused on growing healthy and living fully at RootofWellbeing.com .
It appears as if the world has woken up from its pandemic slumber. A few months ago the streets were empty. However, today, in my neighborhood, the restaurants have their windows and doors wide open and appear to be full of mostly happy, young, and vibrant people, excitedly reuniting with one another. While acknowledging the […]
In a world of brand names, popular culture, cliques, and the fear of missing out, the habit of comparing ourselves to others really takes hold.
“Comparisons are odious,” states a 15th-century proverb quoted by Cervantes, Marlowe, and others, and humorously misquoted by Shakespeare as “Comparisons are odorous.” In other words, they stink.
And yet I constantly make them.
Either I’m prone to comparing myself to others in a way that helps me feel superior: “Wow, I’d never wear that!” “I’d be a blimp if I ate what she’s eating!” “I would never deal with my kids that way!”
Or I compare in ways that denigrate and belittle myself. I watch a decorating show on TV and decide that my home is comparatively ugly and outdated. I glance at a fashion magazine and decide that I’m hopelessly fat, unattractive, and unchic. I follow someone’s Instagram feed and feel stupid and uncreative compared with their perfect-looking posts.
These comparisons leave me feeling needy and unworthy, and our culture steps right into that emptiness to sell me a solution. That’s right, all of us are constantly being told that we can buy our way out of such negative feelings.
The right clothes, shoes, hairstyle, car, fitness equipment, or furniture and housewares will make up for the ways in which we’re lacking, and all credit cards are accepted!
Comparison is fine if I’m trying to make a choice between two or more options. And sometimes comparison inspires me toward self-improvement. But the habit of comparing myself with others is almost never productive. It usually leads to jealousy, dissatisfaction, and dislike.
If I want to be happy, dropping this habit of comparison is a step in the right direction. Far better to accept differences and learn to make the best of what I have, to find my strengths and build on those.
I don’t know anything about video, and would have no idea how to go about creating a podcast (besides, I don’t like to look at myself on camera). I don’t come close to measuring up in that way. This could make me feel hopeless or depressed, like a failure as a blogger. But if I look at my strengths, I see that I’m a pretty good writer, and I regularly produce useful, honest posts. I actually have a lot to offer, and plenty to be happy about.
Comparisons usually make me unhappy, even if I have enough and should be happy with what I have.
More Negative Effects of Comparison
• Most often, when I look at others’ strengths and achievements, I lose, because there is always someone who is doing “better” than I am.
• When I compare myself with someone who has less than I do (fewer possessions, less personal attractiveness, less career success, etc.), I get a short-term ego boost that is easily knocked down as soon as I look at someone “above” me on the competition ladder.
• I end up resenting others for doing well or disdaining those who don’t look successful by my standards, even though I don’t know those people. I’m judging and ranking people without real evidence.
• I may openly criticize people (maybe not to their faces, but to my companions) or brag about my own accomplishments. Neither behavior is attractive.
So how can any of us break this cycle of comparing ourselves with others? I have a few thoughts.
8 Ways to Stop Comparing and Competing
1. Become aware.
When any behavior is a habit , we do it without thinking. So to overcome the habit of comparison, we have to be on the lookout for this behavior. We have to acknowledge that we have this tendency, and pay attention when it occurs.
2. Stop yourself.
Once we realize we’re making a comparison, we must choose to stop it. Don’t beat yourself up; simply take a pause and change your focus.
3. Remember your limited perspective.
On TV or social media, we only see the tip of the iceberg. We see the best versions of people’s lives, not the details. As Steven Furtick reminds us, “The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
4. Count your blessings.
Gratitude really is a life-changer! I try to remember to count what I have, not what I don’t. I think about how many benefits and opportunities I have, and give thanks.
5. Turn comparison to inspiration.
If looking up to someone, admiring who they are and what they’ve accomplished, inspires us to set goals and work to achieve them, then that’s beneficial. Striving to emulate a mentor or an idol can help us do our best.
6. Pay attention to your strengths.
All of us have gifts and talents which we need to discover, develop, and practice using to make our own and others’ lives better. Without bragging, we can feel pride and satisfaction about our God-given abilities.
7. Accept imperfection.
Imperfection is another trait we all share. We won’t reach perfection, but we can achieve self-improvement. We can compare ourselves to where we were yesterday, last week, or last year. If we stop making life a competition, but rather see it as a journey, we can appreciate how far we’ve come.
8. Be happy with enough.
If I always want what others have, I will never have enough. I’ll always feel a lack, and I will never be happy. No matter how many clothes I buy, how big my house is, or how fancy my car, I’ll never be satisfied. I need to realize that I have enough. I have shelter, food, clothing, education, medical care, people who love me – it’s definitely enough. More than that – and most of us can admit that we have more than that – is abundance.
I know I’ll find more joy when I stop comparing my life to everyone else’s. I think you will too.
About the Author: Karen Trefzger is a writer, singer, teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother who has been choosing a simpler life for over 20 years. She is the author of Minimalism A to Z, and blogs at MaximumGratitudeMinimalStuff.
In a world of brand names, popular culture, cliques, and the fear of missing out, the habit of comparing ourselves to others really takes hold. “Comparisons are odious,” states a 15th-century proverb quoted by Cervantes, Marlowe, and others, and humorously misquoted by Shakespeare as “Comparisons are odorous.” In other words, they stink. And yet I […]
“Since my house burnt down, I now own a better view of the rising moon.” — Basho
I’ve been on a quest to make my world small. It all started when I went big.
I had a tiny house before they were vogue because it was all I could afford. I lived within my means and my means were often slim. I didn’t label myself a minimalist back then. I favored clean lines aesthetically and by virtue of necessity.
When I got married, I moved into three-story Victorian that could’ve eaten my little house for breakfast. At first it was exhilarating to have so much light and space. Cathedral ceilings! Where have you been all my life?
It didn’t take long for the stuff to come pouring in, filling empty spaces with the domestic label “home.” Along with it, came a sense that I had finally made it. While there is nothing wrong with having house pride, without realizing it, I started allowing it to define me. By turning away from my humble beginnings, I lost touch with an important part of myself.
Our worth is not determined by our belongings , no matter how much Wall Street would like us to belief otherwise. Remembering this, I set out on a quest to make my world small again.
Detaching from stuff requires psychological fortitude. It takes courage to trust that you have enough—that you are enough. But once you feel and accept that, your life will never be the same. Integrity becomes a North Star that shines a guiding light into all aspects of life.
It’s what I like most about the minimalist lifestyle . It’s deceptively simple, yet profoundly impactful. A friend asks if you’ve read that ‘Tidying Up’ book. “You haven’t? Well, here, borrow mine.”
You read it and a light goes off. This is the decisive moment. Some will feel overwhelmed and toss it aside with a wishful sigh. Others react with the zealous of a recent convert, shoving stuff into bags while happily chanting “Do I love it? Is it useful?”
For those who fall into the latter camp, the life-changing art of minimalism is a breath of fresh air after years of tumbling around in the consumer cycle. Embracing it is to give permission to slow down and remember why we are here. And the answer will be different for everyone. That’s the beauty of it. One size does not fit all.
That’s because minimalism is a mindset. It’s about living intentionally . Master therapist Irvin Yalom said that the work of psychotherapy is to remove the obstacles blocking the patient’s path. Minimalism is like that. We remove the extras to make room for what nourishes us.
This lifestyle is not new, nor is it a cult, trend or form of fanaticism. It’s a way of being in the world and its current popularity is simply a sign of the times. We now know that the one who dies with the most toys doesn’t win.
Fact is, the true riches of life cannot be bought. They’re created through experiences and connections with others. Period.
Think about it this way. If you were to disappear off the planet, what would your surroundings say about you? What would your kitchen, closet and computer reveal? Are you living in alignment with your best self? Or have you fallen prey to being who you think you should be?
Minimalism is about clarity. When we turn down the noise on the shoulda-woulda-coulda, the musicality of life comes forth. Conversely, when we feel overwhelmed, it’s hard to appreciate what’s in front of us.
Without a doubt technology has made our life better. We can travel the world from our home and access information at click of a button. On the other hand, a compelling argument can be made that technology has made life more complex and chaotic.
Thankfully, I’m not here to decide. My job is simply to share a few helpful ways to live small in a big world. The following are a few ways I’ve learned do to this:
1. Know there is enough.
Scarcity and comparison are the killjoys of life. They spawn anxiety, doubt and jealousy. More often than not, the thought of “not enough” occurs below the radar—before we have a chance to question it. The first step is noticing your relationship to scarcity. We all feel it. Only by acknowledging it can we make room for compassion, both for self as well as others.
2. Practice gratitude.
My favorite way to cultivate gratitude is to appreciate what I already have. When I do, I am humbly reminded that the real joys in life come from collecting experiences—not things. This has the added benefit of keeping impulse buys in check. When you like what you’ve got you don’t need more. Perhaps the best part about the practice of gratitude is how quickly it moves beyond material things into the soul of our being, filling our hearts with a sense of contentment.
3. Get outside.
There isn’t a better or more cost-effective way to recalibrate than communing with nature. It puts our problems into perspective while nourishing mind, body and spirit . And it needn’t be complicated. A walk around the block will do nicely. The point of getting out is to remind ourselves that we are part of something larger. We humans are unique in that we perpetually try to overcome that which we are inextricably tied to: nature.
4. Be culturally aware.
Not everyone has it as well as us and not all Westerners have it equally well. Remaining conscious of the inordinate freedoms and luxuries we have helps us to appreciate what we already own instead of longing for more. This isn’t meant to induce guilt. The intent is to keep desire in perspective . More often than not, the grass of our neighbor is not any greener.
It takes courage to trust that you have enough, that you are enough. But once you feel and accept that, your life will never be the same.
We live in a culture where a number of people are beginning to wake up to the reality that time is a limited resource. We are giving up busyness as a badge of honor and learning how important it is to choose how we spend our time.
Like money, if we mindlessly spend our time, we will wake up one day and realize it is gone. Worse than that we won’t know how we spent it. Why is it so hard to choose what commitments to keep and which to leave behind?
Strangely for those of us who live in this daily tension, this is not a universal problem. Our early ancestors, for example, weren’t wrestling with the stress of busyness as they were working to hunt and gather their food. Priorities clarify themselves when you’re fighting for your survival.
Not to mention, consider the generations before smart phones, or even the Internet , when there were fewer choices for where you were going to go, what social events you might attend, or where you might volunteer your time.
The fewer options we have, the easier it is to prioritize. No wonder we feel the weight of this. Our choices today are virtually endless.
In a modern age, with every opportunity and option available to us — every vacation, every friendship, every job opportunity, every volunteer position — these value choices have become our own version of life and death.
Choose what matters most or die the slow, painful, death of overwhelm — a death of your spirit and mind. So yes, this is a first-world problem.
It is a product of our privilege. But it is a problem that matters because it deeply affects our own personal satisfaction and happiness , as well as our ability to share our highest gifts with the rest of the world.
How do we learn to be more frugal with our time? Here are three suggestions.
1. Think of time like money and budget it.
If you think of time the way you think about money — where you have a certain day, month or year you have to make decisions about where to allocate it — this will help you to overcome that tendency of always thinking you can “fit one more thing in.”
Thankfully, budgeting your time also gives you an easy “out” when someone invites you to an opportunity that, while great, isn’t part of the budget. Rather than, “No thanks,” you can say, “That sounds like a great opportunity but I don’t have space for that right now. Maybe next month/year.”
If you don’t control your schedule and your time, it will control you.
2. Don’t just schedule work. Schedule rest.
Most people make the mistake of scheduling work, appointments, commitments, carpools, etc and then use whatever is left over for relaxation or rest. Don’t fall into this trap.
Just like you put a line in your budget for rent, food and entertainment, you should budget for work, leisure and play. As a happy benefit, when “take a nap” is on you calendar, it helps eliminate any guilt you may have otherwise felt taking one. It’s on the calendar! Who can fight that?
3. Err on the side of under-committing.
Did you know those who under-commit have more control over their lives and more to offer to the world than those who over-commit?
When you have margin left at the end of your day, and energy left to give, you have choices about what to do with it. Those who stretch themselves to the very end aren’t left with the same flexibility.
Maybe you’re already on the path to simplifying your life and being frugal with your time. Any improvement is a step in the right direction. You don’t have to live your life stressed and over-worked. There is a better way.
Give yourself the gift of rest — you deserve it.
In favor of giving up busyness for a more meaningful life? Here’s how to maximize the time you have.