This post is the second in a 31 day series called “doing less to build more.” To read the introduction, click here.
My productivity has always affected how I feel about myself. Even as a kid I always had an agenda, alphabetizing my books or writing a story or choreographing Beatles songs with my sister.
I can remember feeling cranky and anxious when I didn’t do all the things I planned to, things no one else knew or cared about. The anxiety of feeling elusively behind is one I confront and dismiss often still.
I felt it a little last night, when my husband asked how many of my 31 Days posts I had already written, and I said none.
Have you felt that way before? Maybe it’s internal, when you meant to get three loads of laundry and the grocery shopping done, but didn’t do any of it, and now it’s 8:00 and you’re throwing together a frozen veggie and quesadilla dinner. Okay fine, just quesadillas if I’m honest.
Or maybe it’s external, like when you were in high school and heard about all the extracurriculars your classmates were doing the same month college applications came due.
Or maybe you’re not married or don’t have a baby and every friend you see walk down the aisle or post an ultrasound picture on Facebook causes you to panic a little.
The frantic alarm bells inside my brain are the same regardless of the cause, letting me know that I’m behind and I need to spring into action to catch up. The flurry of activity that follows, at least in my case, isn’t pretty. The adrenaline fueled burst of energy that comes is the fight side of the “flight or fight” coin.
The lies I’m believing in that moment:
- Getting things done is somehow linked to my identity
- I’m behind in some elusive but critical way
- I just need to try a little bit harder
The truth is:
- My identity is secure, no matter what I do or don’t today.
- I am not my to do list.
- My worth is determined by who I am and Whose I am, not what I do.
There’s nothing wrong with accomplishments or being goal oriented; some people are built that way, and it can be an incredible strength. There’s nothing wrong with feeling satisfied with what you’ve done.
But it’s not worth it when it costs me peace. It’s not worth it when my identity is on the line. It’s not worth it when my striving looks like a frantic thrashing, because there’s no fruit in that.
The race against time and myself and the world to do one more thing doesn’t pay off, because it’s a race that’s doomed from the start.
Here’s the question I have for myself, and for you if you ever feel behind: Are you really, or are you just distracted from good work that produces real fruit?