Wednesday 9 January 2019

We can all stop trying so hard

Have you noticed? There is something in the air. Over the past week I've read several blog posts and articles about giving the collective middle finger to the hustle, and I'm all for it. My first newsletter of the year is about quitting the hustle, about less doing and more being, and I'm pumped that I'm not the only one who feels that way! It feels like a small revolution is brewing, and I say it's about damn time.

I have believed for so long that if I'd achieved all my dreams I would be happy. That I was in charge of my own destiny, and when I didn't reach my goals it was my fault for not trying hard enough.
And I'm not the only one who has swallowed that lie. 
Everywhere we turn we are being told that "the harder we try, the luckier we get", that we should reach for the stars and push ourselves just a little harder if we want to live a successful life. 

Did you notice how often I used the word "hard" in those last few sentences? Too many times, and that's not a coincidence. The message we keep hearing is that life is hard, that marriage is hard, that  maintaining friendships is hard, that getting the body of our dreams is hard (and keeping it is even harder!), that fighting for our dreams is hard - in short, everything we have or want or should aspire to is hard.

I don't believe that anymore. In fact, I'm learning that life is actually simple, and that we are being taught to make it complicated. Jeff Goins writes in his beautiful blog post The Most Transformative Year of My Life Had Nothing to Do with Success

"I started to listen to the teachings of Anthony de Mello. In his eight-hour program called “Awareness” (which he later turned into a book of the same name), de Mello argues that happiness is the natural state of human beings. Look at any child and you will see their default position is happiness; it is only we adults with our so-called wisdom who have to work for happiness.
Moreover, he said that anything you seek outside of yourself to bring you happiness is an illusion and will eventually result in unhappiness. With each word he shared, I nodded, even laughed sometimes. He talked of men and women aspiring to “make it” and how all they were really doing was “making asses of themselves.” 
I knew this to be true. I'd experienced it myself." 

It's such an interesting concept, isn't it? The idea that we are born happy, but that "growing up" is making us unlearn that knowledge. 
People who meditate know that all wisdom and peace is already inside us. They teach us that we will never find happiness outside of ourselves, that all the external goals we chase - success, money, fame, adventure - will not give us lasting happiness if we don't find it inside ourselves.

The last couple of years have taught me a lot about that. I was chasing goals for so long - job security, financial freedom, a fit body, becoming an author, moving to our dream place - and I was shocked to see that fulfilling these goals made me not happier, but more anxious. Because what if I would lose it again? What if I managed it wrong? What if I somehow screwed it up? What if it turned out to be less thrilling than I hoped it would be?

Working towards something is in many ways more enjoyable than reaching it. It's definitely safer. Because you can blame your unhappiness or dissatisfaction on the fact that you haven't fulfilled your dreams yet. Once you have, you will finally be happy forever! 
But when you do tick off all the items on your bucket list and you're still not fulfilled, you start to panic. Because if achieving your life's ambitions doesn't make you happy, what will?

As I shared in my latest newsletter, I spent the last six months opting out of the race. I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I needed a break. Just like Jeff Goins I spent a lot of time by myself. I was outside in nature every day as I always am, but this time it was without my usual distraction of an audiobook. I simply took it all in, letting my thoughts wander freely, not chasing the next goal or the next milestone.  

And something really amazing happened. My busy, buzzing mind started to quiet down. I wrote last September that I was coming home to myself, and that feeling of peace was more rewarding than external validation or ticking off the latest item on my list of dreams. 
I learnt that I didn't have to achieve anything in order to be enough. I could just be
What a relief that was! 
And it still is. I made a list of goals again for this year because I love doing that, but I know now that my happiness doesn't depend on reaching them. I'm happy now, the way I am, not in 6 months from now by making it to my next target. 

We find peace and happiness when we let go of the picture in our head of what we thought life should look like, and start appreciating it for what it is right now.

So no, life doesn't have to be hard. You don't have to continually push yourself. You can relax, do less, and be safe in the knowledge that your worth is not measured by numbers: not the number on the scale, or the amount of followers you have, or how much money you make. 
Laura Jane Williams writes:

"I'm done. Over it. Finished. This idea that if you want something doing, ask a busy woman, or the notion that we’re human doings instead of human beings."

Let's all be more and do less!
We deserve it.

xoxo Miriam



  1. Here, here!!
    It's interesting because my mind immediately thought "okay, but we need to pay bills, though..." which is true. We do need to pay bills. But The Mr and I have started asking "how can we owe less so we can save more?" instead of "How can we make more so that we pay for all this stuff?"
    It's freeing.

    1. I wasn't particularly talking about that we should work less in our jobs. I know how important it is to earn enough money to be safe and comfortable, and being financially secure is a huge part of freedom and being able to make choices that increase our happiness!
      But I fully agree with The Mr, a lot of the "stuff" we think we need we don't, and is something that makes our lives cluttered, our bank accounts empty and makes us feel dissatisfied and panicky in the long run.

      I was talking about how so many of us think we need to achieve more than "just" go to work: we think we need a side hustle, and we also have to work out and clean the house and dye our roots in order to feel that today wasn't a waste.
      I created this narrative in my head that I should ideally blog every other day, promote my book, work on my next book, work out every day, meet with friends regularly, keep the house spotless and walk the dog daily.
      If I didn't do all these things I felt like a failure.

      It took away the joy for all these things and burnt me out last year.
      I thought it was important that I would become "good" at everything I did, and I was more focused on the end goal (sell 10,000 books!) than the process (I really like to write).

      But no more! The process is the goal, and I really want us women to stop being so hard on ourselves all the time.

  2. I love this! I've also seen lots of people talking about slowing down this year. I'm all for it.

    1. I think we as women still believe that we not only "can have it all", but that we should. And we not only want to have it all, but we want to be equally successful at everything, which obviously must mean success measured by numbers: how much money we make, how many followers we get, how soon our kids can walk and talk and learn to read, how much weight we lose.

      It's a pressure that we created ourselves that men don't put themselves under: they mostly care about being good at their job and give themselves a break on everything else. They don't feel like a failure if the house isn't clean, they rock their men bods loud and proud, and they don't feel the need to turn their hobby into a side hustle.

      It's about time we start being gentler and more forgiving with ourselves and stop expecting more from us than from anyone else in our lives!

  3. Your post reminds me of this famous poem by Pablo Neruda. Although the context was different, I still could not stop thinking about this poem as I read your post. I am sharing the poem here:

    Keeping Quiet

    Now we will count to twelve
    and we will all keep still.

    For once on the face of the earth,
    let’s not speak in any language,
    let’s stop for a second,
    and not move our arms so much.

    It would be an exotic moment
    without rush, without engines;
    we would all be together
    in a sudden strangeness
    If we were not so single-minded
    about keeping our lives moving,
    and for once could do nothing,
    perhaps a huge silence
    might interrupt this sadness
    of never understanding ourselves
    and of threatening ourselves
    with death.

    Perhaps the earth can teach us
    as when everything seems dead in winter
    and later proves to be alive.

    Now I’ll count up to twelve
    and you keep quiet and I will go.

    1. This is beautiful! Thanks for sharing ❤


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