This morning I read this interesting article 10 Ways You’re Making Life Harder Than it Has to Be. Some of what it said did not seem to apply to me but it got me thinking about what I do in my own life that complicates life and adds pressure to my days.
Part of what I realize is that how we make life harder than it should be depends on our personalities. Those of us who are easily distracted complicate life by moving in too many directions at once. Those who tend to introspection complicate it by navel gazing and feeling we are to blame for everything bad that goes on around us. This is where tests like the enneagram or Myers Briggs can be helpful. They help us know ourselves so that we identify more clearly the ways in which we complicate life.
Anyhow here is my rather self revelatory list of how I make life harder than it should be. What would yours look like?
1. I expect too much of myself. Believe it or not I grew up thinking I was lazy and so have always felt guilty when I am not moving frantically in many directions. Developing a rhythm that balances work and rest, solitude and community, spiritual and secular, has been both challenging and essential. It has required a lot of discipline as well as education – education that convinces me that this balance is essential. Trusting in God and believing that God does not expect me to be busy 24/7 has been one of the most important lessons I have learned in the last few years.
2. I expect others to know what I am thinking. It took me a long time to realize that other people cannot read my mind and that they don’t necessarily interpret my actions in the way I expect them too. This, I think, is partly a cultural thing. Like making a cup of tea for a visitor. For me it is an act of hospitality I never expect people to refuse. If they do I feel insulted. For others who have different cultural values it can be an imposition. This type of thinking applies in so many areas – how we express love, affection, how we spend money, use our time, or relate to others are all translated into expectations on others. I agree with what the article I read above commented: Unmet expectations will be at the root of most of your unhappiness in life. Minimize your expectations, maximize your joy. I would add learn how others interpret your actions and help them understand you – that too maximizes your joy.
3. I let the internet steal my time. This is a common problem today and one that has led to many addictions and much waste of time. How often do you check your email, Facebook, twitter, instagram or other social media sites? How often do you go off at tangents reading articles, playing games, checking up on what your friends are doing? Some of these habits are hard for me personally, others I have watched in my friends’ lives. It wastes time or more bluntly IT STEALS TIME FROM US. At the beginning of the day I like to frame out my commitments in my head. Writing them down is even better. Working out when to be on the computer and when to close it and put it away are some important boundaries I am still learning to apply.
4. I let work not God set my agenda. When I don’t start my day focusing on God, allowing the spirit of God to sweep over me, to relax and calm my spirit my stress level increases exponentially. That is part of the reason I write prayers and often post them at my desk so that I can come back to them throughout the day. All of us need God pauses, yet we rarely take them. This always reminds me of what a friend who spent time in a monastery told me after his experience. He said: I thought that pausing for prayer throughout the day would be restricting, but instead I found it to be liberating. No matter what I was doing at certain times I had to stop, put down my tools and pray. Nothing was allowed to get in the way of my times with God. How many of us have that same conviction. What do we allow to get in the way of our times with God?
5.I don’t take time to be grateful for what I have. It is easy in our consumeristic society that always makes us feel we do not have enough to focus on what is missing in our rather than on the blessings of what we have. I have mentioned before that an important part of journalling each week for me is asking the question. What am I grateful for? Recently I have added another question Where have I caught glimpses of the kingdom of God? These questions have changed my perspective on life and on the world around me in ways I never imagined possible. They have transformed my attitudes in so many places that I am sometimes astonished by the change in myself. As a teenager I was prone to depression, and felt the world was against me. Gratitude and thankfulness, catching glimpses of what God is accomplishing makes joy and faith bubble up from within me.
So how do you complicate your life? What increases your pressure? Steals your time? Robs you of joy? Take some time today or this week to find out. Let me know. Writing down and sharing our struggles and challenges is half of the battle in overcoming them.