Your heart is racing and the sounds of your brain are making sleep impossible. The stress has made your stomach churn and the acid has made you nauseous. The clock reads 2 a.m., then 4 a.m., and finally your alarm goes off. You wake feeling hung over, yet you haven't had a drink.
Your eyes are barely open and you immediately check your email. The tasks for the day are endless, and your goals seem insurmountable. You haven't spoken to your friends in weeks, and you know you are forgetting someone's birthday but your brain is too full to remember. You work day and night, and rarely see the sunlight. And although you make a great salary and have a high-powered position, your life is full of tasks, goals and responsibilities. You can't remember the last time you laughed, relaxed or even smiled. You can't recall the last time you were happy, either. How much are you willing to sacrifice for "success"?
"Where has the time gone?" "There aren't enough hours in the day." These are statements that we struggle with daily. Yet we rarely make changes to our lives or our schedules to allow for life's pleasures. We are so caught up in achieving that we forget to savor, breathe and recognize the present moment. We constantly live in the future, and suffer as a result.
I own a holistic health practice and I help people to find balance in their health and in their personal lives. I pride myself on living according to my teachings. But last week I lost my footing and I, too, fell prey to the "American model of success." I decided to launch several new exciting ventures for 2013 and the steps that needed to be taken seemed overwhelming. In this case, I felt that I needed to have all of the steps figured out immediately, and I couldn't sleep or stop until I did. I was emailing at all hours, and I was constantly anxious. My sleep suffered, I wasn't returning phone calls, I canceled many plans and I missed my favorite yoga class.
The final straw came when I realized these projects were supposed to be exciting. After all, they were a part of my dream and my vision board. But stress was a pin, deflating the fun right out of my happy helium balloon.
How do you define success? Is it a particular job or position? Is it a certain style of living? Is it a relationship? Is it monetary? For many Americans, success means, "overworked, sad and frustrated." It means an unhealthy lifestyle, a cynical attitude and an unattainable goal. It comes with a price; as we are working at warp speed to live up to a certain potential, life is passing us by.
Why do we allow this? We might believe that we should have achieved a particular goal by an exact time period, or maybe we are comparing ourselves to others. Or perhaps we don't trust the process and we are rushing life to attain a goal. We live every day on a hamster wheel and we have no idea how to get off.
But we can change our lives. First, by asking what success truly means. What would really make you happy? Maybe right now it is a hug or a belly laugh. Maybe it is a good night's sleep. Maybe it is a simple pleasure -- one without sacrifice. Maybe it is about really seeing and experiencing every hour of the day and spending a few minutes in the sunshine. Maybe it isn't about huge goals, but about small steps that allow you to feel present.
So where do you start? Start by making time to breathe. Redefine balance for yourself. Chew your food and take better care of your body. Cherish the time you have with loved ones. Choose to dance, sing or be still. Rediscover your smile. Use your creativity and listen to your voice. Enjoy a hobby. Treat your body and your soul like sacred property and treasure every moment you have. Live life a little slower and learn to feel again.
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