Life Can Be Overwhelming: Get Over It!
Oftentimes, the goals we set for ourselves are filled to the brim with all our hopes and dreams. This leads to goals as big as Mount Olympus, and often leaves us staring in open-mouthed awe. But open-mouthed awe doesn’t help us climb the mountain. In fact, quite the opposite, it leaves us standing in one place, unable to move, overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
While we stand there staring, we lose sight of the fact that our goal is climbing the mountain. Climbing the mountain before us, or anything else we might imagine starts with a single step, a tiny action, and a plan.
Yet not all of us get stuck in the same part of the process. For some, taking the first step is their sticking point. For others, it’s the idea of creating a plan. We lose sight of the fact we don’t need to plan every single tiny step. In fact, that would inhibit the process even further as things happen along the way we can’t possibly plan for, and which will often alter our trajectory.
Breaking a Goal Into Manageable Pieces
I like to think of the plan as an outline where you hit the high points, but leave the details open. Those high points are your mountains, but the details in between are your stepping stones, and you can’t always plan where the next one will be. The real trick is to be alert for choices we’re given along the way; should we take the easy, already beaten path, or try our luck with one that’s overgrown and will require a little more effort? Do we always stick to the straight and narrow, or take a chance on the one that meanders its way through mountains and valleys, fording streams and climbing over boulders?
Your mind shifts, the world changes, and sometimes even the next milestone in your plan is moved, pushed back, or even changed entirely.
I believe that’s where so many of us get hung up. We believe even those milestones have to be engraved in…well…stone. Nothing could be further from the truth. They’re more like place markers giving you a direction to reach towards. How you get there will rarely be a straight shot, nor would you continue to hold onto the excitement of the journey if it were. A winding road with surprises appearing around each bend is not only more interesting, but leads to discoveries you hadn’t considered when you first drafted the plan. Better still, it challenges us and forces adaptation and learning of new skills which will be of use to us further down the road.
Detours Can Be A More Direct Route
As a child, my two favorite things were reading and making up stories. Along the way, I got involved in many things; dance, technical theater, accounting, even a little mentoring. I got married, finished college, became a parent, got divorced… My point is, life changes and plans fall through.
Do we sit down on the ground and bawl our eyes out about how mean the world is for knocking over our sand castle? Do we insist the road we were on was the best and only one for us? Not if we want to accomplish anything.
The world can seem like a bully, knocking down our block houses, rolling over our dreams like an endless tidal wave. Yet what happens isn’t personal. It’s simply a way to not only make us stronger, but more flexible. When one plan falls through, we need to figure out how to make another one out of the bits and pieces which remain. We need to learn how to build on a more solid foundation and to make what we build resilient enough to accept a bit of thrashing around; even some out and out abuse, and emerge from the chaos ready for the next wave of challenges.
Dealing With the Overwhelm an Moving On
We all get overwhelmed from time to time. Sitting down and having a good cry isn’t always the wrong answer. Sometimes, you need to let go of some crap before figuring out what your next step will be. The tough part is letting it go without trying to hold onto a couple of pieces you think you might need, or are emotionally attached to. Those things will weigh you down as you begin to rebuild from your new perspective. The purpose they were meant to serve is in the past. It’s time to set them down for someone else to find and use to move themselves forward, as you are doing now.
Many coaches these days tell us to come up with our “Big Why”. They’ll ask us questions, drilling down into the depths of our psyche to pull out our real reason for wanting this goal or that one. I’m finding it isn’t always easy to determine what my own “Big Why” is, and in fact, trying to figure it out was keeping me from setting a couple of goals and moving forward.
Making Life’s Imperfections Work in Your Favor
Sometimes, part of your plan won’t come to you. No matter how hard you try, you can’t figure it out. Whether it’s your ultimate goal or an interim one, they’re not always apparent when you set out. Sometimes, because I need to has to be enough for the moment. We don’t always know, nor can we put into words what drives us forward and makes us keep striving for something, especially when everything we try falls apart like one of my earthquake cakes. That’s OK.
Work with what you know. Focus on a goal you know you can attain, even if it’s only going to take you through the next three days. It simply means you don’t have enough information. You don’t even know what you don’t know. Standing in one place, contemplating your navel isn’t going to change that. Moving around will. Something or someone you meet along the way will trigger a question, or drag a memory out of your subconscious that gives you a clue, inspires you to keep moving. If nothing else, the process of moving will invariably shake loose a few cobwebs and clear your head, making it easier to recognize a clue before it smacks you in the head.
Sometimes You’re the Windshield and Sometimes You’re the Bug
I’ve been on all sides of this equation. I’ve had goals, like completing my accounting degree, which I achieved. I’ve had others, like making a living as a writer, which are still gathering steam. I’ve tripped and fallen on my face dozens of times. I’ve gone down countless dead-end roads. I’ve also slogged through swamps and dragged myself that one more step up my latest mountain, assuring myself I’d be glad I did in the end. And I always was.
What keeps me going isn’t a solid goal. It’s an image of the life I want to be living, the home, the people, the grove of fruit trees I can use to help feed the hungry in my community, the cats I’ll help save from euthanization or worse. But I succumb to overwhelm too.
Forgotten Victims, or Whatever it’s Called in the End
My biggest goal is to get my memoir about family suicide published and promoted on a broad scale. Yet since the writers’ conference in February, I’ve re-written 1 1/2 chapters; none of them in the last 2 months. Why? Because I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of re-writing what took me 9 years to create. I’ve even managed to mire myself in how much I dislike the current title!
I’ve re-thought my defining moment. I created a timeline of significant events. Yet my mind runs in circles, trying to decide whether to print the whole thing out on index cards so I can re-arrange them like puzzle pieces or sit down and work with what I currently have to re-shape the existing chapters first. Stuck in a mire of indecision, I’m doing exactly what I’m telling you not to do; I’m wallowing in my own misery and frustration and failing to move forward.
Making Your Own Small Successes
Sure, I’m now putting out 3 blog posts a week. I’ve joined the #HeartfeltAcademy to move my visions for my work and business forward. Most of all, I’ve realized I can break my re-writing project into even smaller, practically bite-sized pieces. I can spend an hour a day on it without reaching that point in every writer’s life where I want to set fire to the whole project and run away screaming “I suck at this! What ever made me think I could be a successful writer?”
Instead, I listen to my coach who is telling me to break it into smaller pieces. I step back and set a couple of shorter-term goals. Most of all, I make time in my day to act on those smaller pieces knowing when I can put a check mark next to today, I’ll feel absolutely fabulous about the small step I’ve taken toward achieving one of my many goals!
Gratitude is Always the Answer
Above all, I am grateful for every step I take, every stumble, every Universal head slap, and every bit of encouragement and praise I receive. I’ve even learned how to accept a compliment without qualification or underlying belief it’s undeserved.
- I am grateful to Linda Clay, Jessa Hargrove and the entire #HeartfeltMovement for helping me get out of my own way, recognize my qualities, learn to overcome my weaknesses, and ask for help from the amazing women who are joining the groups every day.
- I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the times I’ve fallen and picked myself up again. May I always pick myself up after each fall, and recognize what I’ve learned in the process.
- I am grateful for my daughter Heather who inspires me every single day. She may have spent the better part of 13 years at various community colleges, but she found her way back to her original dream, and will be graduating from the last community college with 2 AS Degrees before going on to SDSU in the Fall. She shows me every day how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of any obstacle. There isn’t anything we can’t overcome if we stay focused on our goals.
- I am grateful for friends who have become family and who are so incredibly encouraging. They may not know how much or how often their words have helped me keep reaching for my dream of being a real writer, but I wouldn’t have come this far without them.
- I am grateful for abundance; friendship, determination, motivation, inspiration, encouragement, love, joy, energy, kitty love, sunshine, rain, hope, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author