Recently, I’ve been wrestling with some paradoxes. On the one hand, you can’t give others what you don’t have. So if you’re completely undisciplined with how you spend your time, it’s hard to invest deeply in meaningful relationships. On the other hand, if you’re too structured, you can shut yourself off from deep connections with others because you’re too controlled and measured in your approach.
Also, as I’ve been reading the very insightful book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I’ve come across this issue from Brené Brown’s research: “Compassionate people are boundaries people. The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become. If we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior.”
But on the other hand, “Without exception, spirituality — the belief in connection, a power greater than self, and interconnections grounded in love and compassion — emerged as a component of resilience.”
So what does this mean? How can we be intentional and boundaried and yet not cut off the connections that exist between us?
I think this will be a question we will all need to wrestle with for the rest of our lives, but here are a few of my recent insights that may help you go from simply having your schedule under control to having a schedule that allows you to invest in life at the highest level possible:
- Intention Is Key: To be truly relaxed, open, and present in the moment, you need to know the basics are in order. That means having a clear sense of your calendar, or at least, reminders in place to prompt you when it’s time to do something. That also means having clarity around what key activities you need to accomplish by certain times. Without this basic level of control, your attempts to be open to the moment can backfire and spin you into chaos.
- Leave Space: I must admit that I can get tunnel vision when I’m focused on getting certain things done. This can be immensely helpful from a productivity standpoint but not from a connection standpoint. To overcome the downside of this tendency, I’m trying to leave a bit more flex and openness in my schedule on a daily basis. I find that when I’m not feeling overly pressured by deadlines, I have a much greater capacity to engage spontaneously with other people.
- Greedy Is Needy: I listened to a really thought-provoking radio show on greed versus generosity in relationships. The key point that the counselors who were being interviewed on the show made was that, when we’re being greedy with our time, we have a need to feed our ego with something that doesn’t intrinsically satisfy in an attempt to cover up our pride, pain, fear, or unrealistic expectations — hence the compulsion to work, be busy, or even be overly invested in a hobby that squeezes out time for our relationships. But to truly be satiated, we must practice generosity in relationships. This can lead to the deep sense of love, connection and belonging.
- Less Perfectionism, More Self-Compassion: As Brené shares in The Gifts of Imperfection: “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.” We put up all these perfectionism walls because we can’t be and do everything. We need to choose for being authentic to ourselves and our values and realize that may mean we won’t always appear like others around us. In the face of that reality, our natural inclination is to justify why we are the way we are. But what will really lead to the best outcome is greater compassion for ourselves and others.
In the end, we’re all a lot more the same than we are different. I recently came across this video, which has made me cry every time I watch it. Whether you’re a parent or not, I believe it’s the best two minutes and 38 seconds you can invest in today. Yes, I’m a time investment expert, but I want us all to remember that we’re people first.