You Can’t Be Good at Everything

I have a bad habit of avoiding things I know I’m not good at, or strongly suspect I wouldn’t be good at. I don’t like to look foolish or feel incompetent. I enjoy doing things that I’m better at.

While I don’t think this tendency is uncommon, I’m not convinced it’s healthy.

I know I can’t realistically be good at everything, but I think I subconsciously want to be. I would love to be great at everything.

But that isn’t realistic. I don’t have the natural aptitude for some things (ahem, organized sports), or the time and effort required to hone other skills I might be otherwise able to pursue (speaking another language, playing piano).

I have limited time and energy. I can’t work hard enough or long enough to be good at everything. I have to pick and choose what I want to invest in, which means letting go of some things in order to pursue others.

And that’s okay. That’s what makes me, me.

And the things you’re good at are the things that make you, you.

Of course, we can work to gain new skills— and we should. There are things that would make doing our jobs easier or managing our families smoother or simply living life better. But we don’t have to do it all. We can choose which things we’re going to support and invest in, which ones we’re going to let others do for us, and which ones we’re going to let go.

But we don’t have to do it all. We can choose which things we’re going to support and invest in, which ones we’re going to let others do for us, and which ones we’re going to let go of completely.

There are tons of resources and services for things like meal planning, meal deliveries, mail-order prescriptions, subscription services for makeup, food, clothing, and more. If those aren’t things that you enjoy doing, or things that you’re not particularly good at, you can choose to let someone else take care of it for you.

I personally like grocery shopping and cooking, and I highly value having a clean home. But I’m choosing to not worry about the fact that I don’t know how to do home improvement tasks or car repairs myself or the fact that I don’t use Twitter. Those things just aren’t me. And that’s okay.

There are things that I would like to eventually learn (like watercoloring and better bicycling skills), but I’m giving myself permission to not stress about them. Maybe one day I’ll get there. Maybe I won’t. Either way, it’s not the end of the world.

For now, I’ll stick to things that I really enjoy, whether I’m good at them or not. And I won’t waste my time trying to be anything I’m not. I’ll let others be good at what they’re good at and do my best to squash the voice of comparison telling me I have to compete to be the best at everything.

 

What things do you love doing? What things are you choosing to not do? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Image source: Steinar Engeland, https://unsplash.com

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Don’t Rush Ahead

Do you remember going for walks or bike rides with your family as a kid? Were you the one who always went as far as you possibly could because you were just too excited to hold back? Did your parents have to tell you to stop and wait for them to catch up, to not go any farther than they could see?

I don’t think I really did that when I was a kid. I have always been really cautious when it comes to things like that. But I do think I take a similar approach to other things in my adult life.

I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared. And, if at all possible, I want to get ahead. I want to feel like I’m buying myself extra time by skipping steps or getting things done faster now so I can have a buffer later. And I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time doing things that I don’t need to be doing.

I don’t like waiting. I don’t like doing the foundational work that feels like nothing at all. I want to get to the big, fun, challenging, heart-of-the-work things that produce results and give me something to show for all my work.

I have a bad habit of cheating myself out of my stretching before and after my workouts. I do stretch some, but not nearly as much as I should. And, of course, I never realize it until the next day when my muscles are sore and tight because I didn’t take the time to stretch them properly.

The problem is that I don’t give stretching its due. It feels useless. I have limited time allotted for working out, and I don’t want to “waste” it on stretching when I could otherwise be doing cardio or strength training- things that make my heart beat harder or strain my muscles in ways that I can feel in a more tangible way right then in the moment.

When I was in school, I always loved the professors who gave out course calendars and detailed rubrics for projects ahead of time. I loved knowing what was coming and what was expected of me. It allowed me to plan out my time and energy efficiently. In courses where I didn’t have a clear view of what came next, I found myself wondering what laid ahead.

And I’m finding myself in that place once again. I started a writing course a couple weeks ago, and I’m having a really (REALLY) hard time not rushing ahead. I did the prewriting exercises faster than the standard course timeline laid it out, but now I’m finding myself itching to look at material I’m not slated to encounter for a few more weeks yet. And I really don’t need it until then. But this little part of me just wants to know it all. To be prepared. To avoid surprises.

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize I do that with all of life. I want to avoid big surprises. I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared.

But life’s unpredictable. And if I run ahead, I might encounter something sooner than I’m meant to, and I might not be prepared to handle it because I didn’t let the waiting do its work. If I skip steps in my writing, I can most likely come back to them later. If I forget to stretch, I’ll be sore the next day, but I’ll survive just fine. But if I skip steps or rush ahead in life, I might make wrong turns, poor and uninformed decisions, and find myself ill-equipped to handle obstacles because I didn’t let my character grow before plowing forward. And if I knew everything all at once, I would certainly get overwhelmed.

I know it’s important to take things one step at a time. The steps exist for a reason– they make the journey easier, allowing me to tackle just one at a time instead of the whole staircase. I just sometimes need the reminder to not skip steps and try to rush ahead without doing the important foundational work first.

So today I’m reminding myself: Take life one step at a time. Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip steps just because you can’t see why they’re important right now.

 

Do you tend to run ahead? Do you have any tips for taking things one step at a time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Baby Steps to A Better You

What is it about adulthood that makes it shameful to take baby steps? Why do we feel the need to try to conquer things in leaps and bounds?

I personally don’t think trying to tackle an obstacle or reach a goal with giant-sized steps works.

Large tasks are daunting. Big obstacles are frightening. Making significant changes is difficult.

But breaking tasks and goals down into smaller steps can help us better reach them. It makes them more manageable, more attainable. And doesn’t everyone want that?

It’s easy to jump into something new and quickly get carried away with wanting to make dozens of changes right off the bat. But that type of change is hard to sustain. With so many plates spinning at once, we’re likely to not be able to keep any of them going because our focus is too divided.

Instead, if we focus on tackling one area at a time, we can take smaller steps toward our larger goal.

I want to suggest some small steps you (and I) can take today toward becoming better versions of ourselves. In the post-New Year’s season, many people give up on unrealistic resolutions, but these are far more attainable!

  1. Sleep more. Many of us don’t get enough sleep. Some people need more than others, but chances are we all could use more. Try adding just an extra 30 minutes.
  2. Eat more veggies. Whatever else you fill your plate up with is up to you. Just add some veggies. Put some on top of your pizza, sandwich, or pasta. Have a side salad. Throw some in your scrambled eggs or omelet.
  3. Move more. Organized exercise and sports are great, but some people’s schedules don’t allow much time for them. If trying to rearrange everything on your calendar is too daunting, simply try to move more in your everyday life. Get up from your desk every hour for a little break (and come back more refreshed!), walk around during a TV commercial, take the stairs, or park farther away from the grocery store.
  4. Relax. I’m not talking about the sit-on-the-couch-all-day kind of laziness. I’m talking about taking a break from the helter-skelter chaos of everyday life just to breathe for a minute.
  5. Put the phone down. Talk to people face-to-face without interruptions. Take a screen break for an hour or two. Give the people and the world around you your full attention.
  6. Drink more water. Everything is especially dry in the winter– the air, our hair, and our skin are just a few. Drink some water with every meal and throughout the day as you get thirsty. I find that having a water bottle on hand ensures that I keep hydrated throughout the day without having to worry about it.
  7. Watch your spending. Now, I’d love to tell you all to create a budget, get out of debt, and set yourselves up for a solid financial future, but we’re talking baby steps here. Know where you tend to spend the most money and where you might be able to reign it in a little.
  8. Read more. Newspapers, magazine articles, biographies, novels, ebooks, audiobooks… Reading can be very relaxing, and since we’re learning that the light from electronic devices can disrupt our sleep, it can be a good before-bed activity to help us wind down. Novels are good for immersing yourself in a story other than your own, and nonfiction books are good for learning new things.
  9. Smile. Find joy. Focus on the happy. Laugh. Be grateful. It’s really hard to be grumpy when you’re giving thanks for your blessings. And it has a positive impact on those around you, so it’s a win-win!
  10. Declutter. Just a little bit. Start small. One closet. One room. One problem area.
  11. Use fewer disposable items. Swap out cloth napkins for paper ones or washable dish rags for paper towels. Pack lunches in reusable containers instead of sandwich baggies. Bring your own tote bags to the grocery store.
  12. Do something for someone else. Volunteer for a charity, donate to a non-profit, bring a meal to a family with a new baby or sick family member, shovel a neighbor’s driveway, or even just hold a door open.

 

What do you think of my baby steps? Are there any you would add? Are there some you’re going to try? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Embrace the Process

I was reminded today that progress takes time. It’s often very slow-going. It’s a journey.

bike-printable-polka-dots-black

Courtesy of 36th Avenue

But sometimes I really wish it could just happen overnight. I know that’s not how it works, but a girl can dream, right?

Anyway, part of my aim to love better this year is to love myself and show myself grace. That means that I have to be okay with making slow progress and even backsliding at times. It’s a two-step-forward-one-step-back type of dance.

It can be really frustrating when all I want is to leave bad habits in the dust. I want to crush them, conquer them, be done with them, and forget they ever existed.

But that wouldn’t teach me much. It certainly wouldn’t foster compassion, patience, grace, understanding, perseverance, or hope. And those are the more important things, anyway, not kicking a bad habit or achieving a new goal. Those are the lessons that are hard-won, the experiences that truly refine character.

Learning new habits and training myself to reach new goals is going to be a lifelong process. I might as well get used to the fact that I’ll always have goals to set, new things to challenge myself to accomplish. There’s always room for growth. And with the growth is room, too, for grace.

We’ll never be perfect. We will continually fall short. We can certainly grow, improve, strengthen, and make better decisions. We can become better versions of ourselves. But all along the way we should practice doing so gracefully.

By grace, we’ve been saved from the need to prove ourselves. By grace, we’ve been freed from having to earn our salvation and our worth. By grace, we’ve been given the opportunity to live life abundantly, without the pressure to do everything perfectly, and truly enjoy the journey.

By grace, we can let go of our pasts, our mistakes, and our baggage. We can move forward, even if our steps are small.

So today I’m choosing (through gritted teeth) to embrace the process, as slow as it might be. I’m going to take it one step at a time, even when some of those steps don’t feel like they’re leading me in the right direction. I’m going to trust that every small decision I make that supports my goals is important, even if some of them feel insignificant at times.

I’m going to persevere when I encounter setbacks and pray for strength when mine runs out. I’m going to refuse to bite off more than I can chew. I’m going to not aim to be perfect (because I know deep down that I never can be anyway), but just try to be one step ahead of where I was yesterday. Just one. Not twelve. Not seven. Not even two. Just one.

 

What’s your one step for today? Do you have any secrets to embracing the process more easily?

 

Further reading:

8 Simple Strategies For When You’re Struggling to Declutter by Claire Wilde, Becoming Minimalist

 

 

Image source: http://www.the36thavenue.com/free-printables-2/

Give Yourself Grace

In pursuit of living a life of love, I’m coming to realize how immensely important it is to give myself grace. We’ve heard that we’re our own worst critics, and it’s definitely true. We can see it in our New Year’s resolutions— when we set the bar far too high and expect too much of ourselves, only to quit a month later and berate ourselves for our failure.

When we hold too rigidly to our expectations, we’re setting ourselves up for greater disappointment if we don’t meet them. If we do meet them, we’re satisfied (but probably exhausted), and if we don’t, we’re crushed. However, if we set more realistic goals, we’re more likely to attain (and even exceed) them, and we set ourselves up for success. Small victories give us momentum to keep going, pushing ourselves forward one step at a time.

I think it’s safe to say we’ll all fall short of our goals at some point. But how we handle that says more about us than the failure itself. If we get back up and remind ourselves that we can accomplish our goals if we only persevere (and maybe alter our goals a bit), we build up our confidence and keep moving forward. But if we get upset and let our inner monologue fill with critical remarks, we’re moving backward and letting fear get in the way of accomplishing anything except sitting on the couch with a pint of ice cream and binge-watching Netflix.

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break and lower the bar. If we set our sights a bit lower (not rock-bottom low, but just a step or two ahead instead of twelve), we set ourselves up for success, making it easier to take small steps forward to achieve our bigger goals. If we expect to take great leaps overnight, we might want to crawl under a rock at the first sign of failure. We’re creatures of habit; it takes a while to break an old habit or break in a new one. We need to give ourselves time and room to grow.

In working towards various goals, I’m trying to remind myself often that I need to show myself some grace.

At the end of the day, when only a quarter of the things on my to-do list are crossed off, I’m going to choose to show myself grace.

I will celebrate small victories, knowing they’re the key to achieving big dreams.

When I take two steps forward and one step back, I will respond in grace.

When I hear myself starting to get frustrated and upset about my inability to meet my exceedingly high expectations, I will lower the bar in grace.

I won’t be afraid to dream, and dream big, but will hold my dreams loosely, knowing they might change and grow as I do.

Tomorrow’s a brand new day. It won’t be perfect, but it will be a whole lot better if I extend myself some much-needed grace. And I bet yours will be, too.

 

 

Image source: www.karipatterson.com

Lightening the Load

It’s so easy to get pulled down by the weight of the world that we carry on our shoulders. Everywhere we turn there seems to be more and more bad news, destruction, disappointment, devastation, pain, and loss. But what if we didn’t have to carry it? What if we could lay it down and walk freely?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 1:28-30

We need to recognize that we are not defined by the world. We are not defined by what we do, what happens to us or the world around us, or who others say we are. We are defined by whose we are. And we are God’s. We are His masterpiece. We are His heirs. We are victorious in Him. We are beautifully and wonderfully made.

What if we decided that we will no longer be defined by the length of our to-do lists or the relative weight of our accomplishments? What if we were to choose each day to let ourselves be defined by something completely independent of our striving? What if instead of trying to do more, instead of trying to be more, we simply embrace the fact that we already are enough?

No matter what this world tries to convince us of, we are enough. We don’t have to live the way others tell us to live. We don’t have to believe the lies of the enemy. We don’t have to try to fit ourselves into the box set before us. We don’t have to live in the shadows, where shame, guilt, fear, and insecurity surround us.

In Christ, we have the freedom to release our stress and our heaviest burdens and walk through this life helping others do the same. We get to leave behind the cares and concerns and worries of this world and set our sights on one in which God will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes. And there will be no more sorrow or crying or death or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Yes, difficult times come to us all. Bad things happen. We get hurt. We make mistakes and suffer the consequences. We get ourselves in over our heads with committing to too many things and comparing our lives to those around us. But we don’t have to live our lives that way. We can grieve and hurt and heal and keep moving, keep living.

No matter what happens in our personal lives, we are God’s. We can rest assured in our identity in Him. Regardless of what goes on in the world around us, we can be comforted knowing our God is never shaken. He stands firm in the fiercest storm and holds us close. We don’t have to carry our baggage around like dead weight. Through individual struggles and in the midst of a culture filled with fear, we can dare to live differently.

We can show this world that there is more to life than our endless to-do lists and the bleak outlook the news broadcasts give us. There is abundant hope and overwhelming joy for the taking.

Will you join me in taking it?

 

Further reading:

When You Feel Like You’re Not Enough by Renee Swope, (in)courage

Have You Made Busyness an Idol? by Rachel Moreland, Relevant Magazine

Kairos 20’s by Kristyn Emmer, Awkward 20-Something & Surviving It

Perfection-schism

I’m a natural-porn Type-A personality. With that comes a predisposition to perfectionism. I am also the oldest child, making me take on the stereotypical characteristic of responsibility. As a result, I pressured myself growing up to continually do better. No matter how well I did, there was always room for improvement. And if I ever slipped up, I knew I deserved punishment. I was that kid who grounded herself for sneaking a piece of Halloween candy before dinner.

As comical as some stories of my anal tendencies might be, they made my life pretty complicated. Constantly feeling like I wasn’t measuring up to the high standards I had set for myself was frustrating. I felt like I had to be good at everything I did, from school to work to friendships to church involvement. I would beat myself up over a less-than-stellar grade on a school assignment or even the slightest criticism from someone, no matter how well-intentioned.

Without even realizing it, I would shy away from activities that I am not particularly gifted in. I would gravitate toward the kitchen to clean up the night’s mess instead of mingling with strangers. I would make an excuse to leave early so I didn’t have to awkwardly dance, feeling like everyone’s eyes were on me. I truly didn’t enjoy anything that I wasn’t good at, so I just wouldn’t do those things.

I’m a bit OCD, too, so I like to have things clean. But guess what? Things only stay clean so long. Dishes pile up. Laundry overflows the hamper. Games don’t get put away. Trying to stay on top of all of these tedious tasks is just that- tedious.

I would get really stressed out trying to balance my time between all of my commitments, feeling like the “perfect” person would be good at all of them, and would be good at balancing all of them. I worked hard to do well in all of my classes, going over the same assignments over and over and over again until I felt that they were just right.

As you can probably imagine, living life that way was exhausting. So I’m done with it. I am divorcing my perfectionism. I am embracing the fact that only God is perfect. No matter how hard I try, I will never attain perfection, and I’m becoming more and more okay with that. Sure, I still want to do well, but I’m realizing it’s okay to do things I’m no good at (like bowling, playing Frisbee, volleyball, or dancing), and it’s even okay to look foolish while doing it. Do you know why? Because it’s in those moments that grace is seen in our lives. If I only ever do what I’m good at, how will I learn? How will I grow? How will I be reminded that I can’t do this life on my own? And maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover that letting loose, engaging in those activities that I have avoided for so long for fear of looking foolish, is actually kind of fun. : )