Many years ago, I realized that my important to-do list was diverse and extremely draining for me, and that the only way to stay productive in a healthy way was to let go of other things. I started by making choices with matters of the heart, which focus on people, over matters of my fluctuating interests or passions. When I considered doing something for myself that would really benefit me, but might inconvenience myself, not to mention the people closest to me, I chose to attend to that person first. I learned to do this sort of slowing down after reading something very powerful from one of Norman Vincent Peale’s books over 30 years ago. He said, “Learn to relax. Your body is precious, as it houses your mind and spirit. Inner peace begins with a relaxed body.” After reading that powerful essay it became easier for me to stay on track and keep my priorities straight, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s made a huge difference in my life and for those around me. Now, in hindsight, without this advice I may have made different decisions with negative effects on people in my life and I’ve never regretted slowing down. We all learn from our mistakes, but sometimes we miss the mark when we’re reaching for the stars. But this reminder to slow down will create more balance and helps us stay productive and on top of the things that really matter. It will reward you in the long run.
There was a time in my life I used to do too much of everything. I was so off balance in other areas of my life that were important to me that I became sick and almost couldn’t function anymore. I never want to see anyone else succumb to feeling so lost and frazzled the way I was and want to help everyone from becoming burned out. As a single parent with no outside help for me or my daughter, I used to work full time, sometimes with late hours, take care of all my daughter’s needs, keep a house essentially in order, and give free hair services at night or my days off for friends and family members. I wanted to be successful at all times and I suppose I wanted to be loved, too. But no one could see that I was burned out from trying to do too much and neglecting my own health and well-being. I really didn’t understand how to listen to the warning signs that my body was sending me. But then I read Gary Zukav’s wonderful, powerful, and healthy wisdom about addictions and overworking in his book, Seat of the Soul, and it helped me tremendously with important decisions and choices. He said, “Feel your intentions in your mind. Feel not what your mind tells you, but what your heart tells you.” It’s profound advice and I still follow it.
Sadly, almost no one will ever tell you you’re doing too much, or even more than the average single parent is expected to do alone. So, after another fall at 40, I picked myself up and really cut out any unnecessary activities or favors (other than my day job) that would’ve taken me away from my children, who needed a calm, pleasant, and happy mother around them as a role model. And for the first time in a very long time, since my first major crisis at age 26, I began to feel healthier, more confident, more successful. I also liked myself for making these choices. Doing less, relaxing, and enjoying the simple things in life made my life so much better.
After living this way for almost thirty years, I still prioritize relaxing, prayer, and meditation to guide me through most everything, including with my 22-year-old son’s schedule. Having a husband whose professional position takes him out of town quite frequently, and who depends on me for the other things to help him remain productive in his work means I have to remain focused. There are more times than I can recall when both my children and the people around me would have had more havoc in their lives had I not reminded myself of those powerful words from Norman Vincent Peale and Gary Zukav to assist me on my journey.
And I know for sure that there are plenty more ways to stay productive by using both these measures as your compass to healthier, happier, more successful lives, both professionally and personally, single or married. Always keep in mind that others might have different dynamics going on that give them freer choices than yours. But stay true to yourself and your responsibilities. Simply remind yourself of the choices you’re making in the heart of the matters around you, and forgive those who don’t understand what you’re “not” doing! You will eventually see progress through what you created in love. I believe this is the true power of being relentless and unstoppable. We all must strive to remain grateful and healthy while reaching for the top, with and for our families.
If you haven’t read or heard about this parable, AOL has a beautiful and extended one — The Story of the Mexican Fisherman:
Remember, try and do less when it’s right and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it!
About Catherine Nagle: Catherine grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old-school Italian parents. Catherine’s artist father’s works graced churches and public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures, the works of Marianne Williamson, and through conferences, including the National Theology of the Body Congress.
She is an Ambassador of the Society of Emotional Intelligence and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global. The mother of two children, and now a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She is the author of two books, Imprinted Wisdom and Absence and Presence and a contributor to Anne Born’s These Winter Months: The Late Orphan Project Anthology.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com