“I belong to the clean plate club.” This is what a friend said recently as we were dining at a scrumptious eatery. He ate every last bite.
I said, “I belong to the full plate club.” Of course it had nothing to do with the food. I was referring to how full my life plate is — it seems — all the time.
What’s interesting is that my mind keeps telling me how full my plate is so that it constantly becomes true. Sometimes when our lives are very full with projects, deadlines, obligations and expectations, our ego mind plays tricks on us, telling us that we’re going to fall short or we’re not good enough or that we’re going to miss out on something if we don’t keep pushing. And, it can happen particularly when you’re asking yourself to stretch.
In other words, when you’re asking yourself to operate on all cylinders, the mind chatter to stop can get really loud. Sometimes so loud that the only way to shut it down is to numb out, to just not do anything.
Working hard every day can be exhausting and when you’re building toward something important it can feel like it takes forever to get there. And, frankly sometimes that darn full plate can be so overwhelming it causes inertia.
Mel Brooks said, “If you’re alive you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you’ve got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at the very least think noisy and colorfully, or you’re not alive.”
This got me thinking about how the most important way to address the full plate, a full life, is to just show up. To show up, every day. Set aside the ego thoughts about how full or overwhelming it is. Step in and show up.
Showing up means truly being alive, saying yes to yourself.
In order to understand what that means it can be helpful to explore the opposite, or saying no to yourself. What does that feel like? Saying no is the inertia, a numbing out in order to avoid disappointment and feeling like a failure. At times like this your ego brain takes over, numbing you out with activities that stop the yes. The numbing is removing your mind from the present moment, from being fully alive in your body, and from the circumstance you want to be focusing on. Numbing activities can include surfing any and all of your devices, over sleeping or not sleeping, eating when you’re not hungry, drinking, or burying yourself in frivolous activities. They can be addictive, so acknowledgement is the first step. I can become addicted to jigsaw puzzle and word game apps! They’re a time suck and they numb. you. out.
So, here are some ideas to help you shut off the numb and show up for yourself every day:
- Be in awareness — be aware when you start to venture into a numbing activity, or if you hear yourself regularly quoting Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day,” in other words putting off today what you can do tomorrow.
- Fully engage by anchoring yourself in your space — notice the objects around you, feel your body in your chair, feel the texture of your clothing, notice the tapping of your fingers on the computer keys, the push of the pen against your knuckle, the grain of the wood on the desk in front of you. Being present can pull you away from being numb and plop you back into your important work.
- Use your breathing — connect to your breath by pausing to take ten deep breaths. Get quiet. If you can, go outside. Breathing in nature can clear your mind in a really good way.
- Get physical — regularly moving your body increases the dopamine in your brain, which increases your capacity to absorb and assimilate information.
- Shut off the noise — get rid of distractions so it’s easier to focus.
- Compartmentalize — Dale Carnegie promoted breaking your day into day-tight compartments, making the full plate more manageable, working on one compartment at a time.
- Promise yourself to strive for excellence — in all things, even the most mundane tasks. Treat each task as importantly as the one before and after. If you’re working in a job that doesn’t necessarily feed you except to simply put food on the table, show up in every way at that job. Excellence in small things brings excellence in the bigger things.
- Ask yourself — at the beginning of each day “How can I be excellent today?” “How can I show up?” And, at the end of the day, take stock. “How did I show up today?” “What brought me joy?”
Strive to find the answers and the meaning in the simple things and in the connections you’ve made during each day. Before you know it your plate won’t be as full.
Above all else, say yes and just show up.
Originally published at www.thoughtchangerblog.com.
Originally published at medium.com