Danielle LaPorte

Insanity and the March Rebellion

March 05, 2018

Photo courtesy Ryan McQuire, Gratisography.com

You’ve probably heard this definition of insanity before: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well, call me insane.

For more than a year, I’ve been creating monthly, quarterly, and yearly plans, setting goals for each month, religiously writing down and crossing off tasks and to-dos in an effort to build my freelance writing business, strengthen my health, maintain our home, keep in better touch with my friends and family, improve my horsemanship, sketch more, and so on. I want to experience all the simple pleasures and everyday adventures I can—I don’t want to waste any precious time, or look back and wonder what I did with my life. My lists usually help me stay focused and remind me that I have a choice about how I spend my time.

Until they don’t.

Until I reach overload, and realize I’m moving many of the same items from list to list, week to week, month to month, without doing them. Expecting that “this month it will be different.” (See, insanity.) Even the ones I was nailing were beginning to bug me.

Danielle LaPorte’s words in White Hot Truth sounded eerily applicable: “Contemporary women revere their [To-Do] lists like Moses loved his stone tablets. They are directions to the Promised Land. The thrill of crossing something off: check, check, and check. Mmmmm, feels so good. So good that you might write stuff down that you’ve already done just so you can cross it off (yep, you got it bad). Like any addiction, the to-do list is destined to lose its thrill when it rules us….

“My list started feeling like a row of soldiers shouting at me…. Once I started paying attention, that background noise became awfully loud. Its refrain, on repeat: I sort of suck because I should…” 

Well then.

So last week when I hauled out my master list for the year, my goals workbook, February to-do list, and prepared to write out March’s list of goals I hit a brick wall.

Nope. I can’t do it this way anymore, at least for now. I’m sick of copying the same-old, same-old goals and tasks from month to month. Even the ones that consistently get done every month. It’s only March and I already feel burdened and rebellious. I do not want to feel burdened and rebellious. I write about happiness, fercryinoutloud.

The Rebellion caused me to look at my proposed goals and decide 1) whether I still wanted to do them, and 2) whether I could realistically do them this month given the other responsibilities on my plate (I’m looking at you, Luna). I hate admitting this, but I do not have the physical or mental energy to do the number of things I want to do at any one time. And I can’t always be saying no to the simple pleasures and everyday adventures that give me joy and help me relax in favor of working or “achieving.”

I sat for a few moments reflecting on which of these many (many) items were truly important for me to accomplish (and do well) in the next four weeks. Which ones would I enjoy most—whether because the thing itself was enjoyable or having it checked off the list would make me feel especially relieved and happy.

Instead of copying all of February’s goals to a new file, renaming it, and removing the items that got checked off in February that don’t need to be repeated in March, I started fresh with a blank piece of paper and wrote down just a few things I’d like to do in March. The writing jobs I’m committed to. Puppy obedience classes. Planning and preparing for an April trip to California to see my parents and my friend Kerri. My list was shorter, but more meaningful to me.

I don’t know what March is going to bring. Maybe I won’t even accomplish what’s on my shorter list. But at least for now, I don’t feel quite as insane.

How do you cope when you feel overwhelmed by everything you’d like to do?

Being vs. doing

What's the Rush?

May 12, 2014

“Slowness is an option for everyone on the planet, not just a privilege reserved for the very wise or very young or very rich. All of us can decide (and the phrase is a potent one)
to take our time.”
—Christian McEwen, World Enough and Time

For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with deliberately slowing down my actions. I’ve been surprised by how many times I catch myself rushing, as opposed to simply moving efficiently and deliberately. When I take the dog’s medications out of the cupboard, when I get out of the car to go inside, when I unload the dishwasher—I feel an internal push to hurry. (Gretchen Rubin describes this feeling perfectly in Happier at Home: “I always have the feeling that I should be working. I always feel pressed for time, as if someone were shoving a pistol in my back and muttering ‘Move, move, move!’”) I’m already aware that when I hurry I break things and hurt myself, and I really don’t need to hurry every minute of every day, so what gives?

It’s at least partly the familiar and eternal battle between doing and being. No matter how hard I try, it seems that I can’t shake the feeling that if I’m not doing something (or hurrying on to the next something) then I’m not worthy. No matter how much I streamline my do-do list, there’s always more to do than I’ll ever be able to accomplish. Hurry has become a habit. One I’m determined to break.

Even with my new focus on not hurrying, and even though I’ve written several blog posts about the concepts of doing less and slowing down (see “Do Less in More Time” and “One Less Thing,” for example), I still struggle to follow my own advice. Take last Thursday. First, while driving home from the grocery store, I stopped too quickly at a stop sign, spilling my coffee into the cup holder and down the center console. After I cleaned that up and got the groceries unloaded, instead of just chilling for a few minutes, I got caught up on the computer and was late leaving for yoga class. I barely had time to take off my shoes, drop my keys and roll out my mat before it started. I felt flustered, distracted and off balance for at least half the class and the quality of my poses suffered. After lunch, while on the way to run an errand with no timetable, I realized I had a death grip on the steering wheel as I tried to hit every traffic light just right.

Slow down there, girl.

After that, I started reminding myself of a principle Natural Horsemanship practitioner Pat Parelli often refers to: Go slower to go faster. Here’s an example in action: that five seconds I saved by hurrying to go in the house is more than eaten up by the time it takes me to retrieve the mail from beneath the car where I just dropped it. If I’d taken my time in the first place, I’d already be inside (in the air conditioning) rather than crawling on the floor of the garage.  

When I remember to slow down, time does seem to lengthen. I’m able to move more smoothly from one thing to another without feeling internal pressure goading me on. So I’ll continue to pay attention to the speed at which I move. Keep saying no to busy work and rushing. Value the time and space between activities as much as the activities themselves. Seek out activities with a slower pace. And I’ll keep working on taking my time.

What makes you feel rushed? How do you slow down?

No rushing allowed


One Less Thing

November 30, 2012

Earlier this week, I made lunch plans with a friend while we were both out doing errands. We had tentatively set a time to meet, but in the course of her errands, my friend let me know she would be about 30 minutes later than we planned. I found myself with a decision: what to do with 30 minutes of unscheduled time?

I could have done one more errand before meeting her, but that would have added to my overall stress level and possibly made me late for our lunch date. I had books with me after a trip to the library and a small travel sketch kit in my purse. Dare I—gasp!—simply take that 30 minutes for myself?

You bet.

I snagged a table and a cup of coffee at Panera and lost myself in a new book. I made a conscious choice to slow down instead of speed up, to do something relaxing and fun instead of packing my day fuller.

Too often, I don’t make that choice. Instead, I overschedule, or let guilt feelings keep me from taking all but the tiniest scraps of time for myself. I seem to believe if I’m not doing something productive (for pay, for someone else, etc.) I’m wasting time. Possibly because I feel I’m being lazy if I’m not constantly doing.

However, I’m learning, slowly, that when it comes to getting things done, more is not necessarily better. Not if it comes at the cost of health or well-being. And no matter how hard I go at that to-do list, it’s always going to keep getting longer—I will never, never, have everything checked off, so what’s the point of killing myself to accomplish more, more, more?

I found my little reading break, not to mention a delightful lunch with my friend, to be so refreshing that the rest of my day seemed easier—and certainly happier.

Particularly during this time of year, we can find ourselves stretched too thin, adding item after item to our growing to-do lists. I encourage you to do one thing less today than you had planned. Take that time to something you find relaxing, inspiring or energizing.

What will you not do today? What will you do instead?