All of my life, I feel like there’s been a war between my logical side and emotional side. Between performing what is sensible, efficient, and “optimal,” and then doing what is pleasing and makes me happy. And before I learnt to trust myself, I was sometimes afraid to give in to the part of me that wanted to be joyful because I was afraid everything would come apart if I did. Or even worse. So, it’s interesting that I find myself in a newer (and maybe less intense) version of this situation.
This year is an exploration in time management for me, something that’s always been a struggle. But, I have goals and plans and I want to work hard and I want to make things happen. And so I put pen to paper and write to-do lists and try to discipline myself to get things done.
But only a couple of weeks into it, I’m yearning for freedom.
In the past, I would have blamed my job for holding me back, or my roommate(s), or whatever other circumstances. But now that I am in a position to make nearly all of the decisions that greatly affect me and my life, I see that the person that has the hugest influence on whether I feel free or not is me. And I am realizing that sometimes the processes and plans I create for myself serve as more of a prison than a joyful expression of my talents and gifts.
It hit me this morning while I was reading. For fun. I knew I wouldn’t be able to read for long because I needed to get to work. But as I read a vulnerably and beautifully crafted blog piece, I began to cry. And I thought: I am not a machine.
I’m not a machine. But I almost live sometimes as if I want to be one. As if I wish I could be programmed to get things done with zero inefficiencies, to set off on a course and have it go exactly as planned. I act as if this would make me happier — this ability to leave all emotions and wandering aside and go directly to my destination.
But I’m not a machine.
We aren’t machines. And it’s true, machines can do some things better than we can. But we can also do a whole lot of other things better if we do them differently. If we look beyond just linear, input/output mode.
Because I know there’s a reason I don’t get satisfaction just by crossing things off of a list. Or a reason why I can still feel empty, depleted, and even violated by doing exactly what I said I would do as I said I would do it.
I get so caught up in wanting to BE somebody, wanting to ACCOMPLISH something, wanting to make everything in my life make sense or “be” for something that I forget that it’s supposed to be for ME. I act as if I can follow some simplistic formula for my life without taking into account all of the complexities and layers of who I am.
Read also: The Struggle of Perfection
But I realize that I don’t need anyone else to set me free from the prison I’ve created for myself — the keys are right here, right in my own two hands. I can walk through the door anytime.
A corporation recruits the most productive employees and fires the ineffective ones. Effectiveness is something that often — but not always — goes hand in hand with efficiency. Effectiveness is just as vital as efficiency in order for efficiency to be worth anything. I like to think of efficiency in terms of how much money is spent and how much labour is gained as a result.
And in the past, that door has meant moving and uprooting my life. Setting myself free by moving to Disney World or living in France. But today, I see it for what it really is: a shift in attitude. Thinking differently. I’m happy that I’ve grown and learned enough that I can now do this regardless of my environment. I don’t need to move my circumstances; I just need to move my mind. And you know what? It’s something that’s available to each of us, if we learn how to tap into it.
How do we do it? Well, we feel free once we give ourselves permission and room to BE ourselves. To stop comparing ourselves to other people and to what they have and where they are going. To stop judging whether we are ahead or behind. To let who we are, as we are be enough. To let joy guide us.
Read also: Can Money Actually Buy You Happiness?
For me, happiness doesn’t come from a to-do list. Happiness comes from exploration, flexibility, new discoveries. It doesn’t come from efficiencies and getting things done as quickly as possible. It comes from savoring the good moments, and yes, from indulging a bit, and from letting the light from those blissful moments carry me through to whatever’s next.
Lately a question had been swirling around in my spirit: if I can do what I need to do, but have fun while doing it, why not? If I can get done what I need to get done but enjoy it and laugh along the way and embrace myself and others, why not? Efficiency isn’t everything. But connection — to ourselves, our bodies, others, to the earth, to life — isn’t that more important? For me, it is.