Do you have to, really?

sam_0884What do you “have to” do today?

Chances are, the length of that list will determine how overwhelmed you are feeling right now.  And the more stressed you feel, the longer that list will seem.

Modern life can be crazy-making.  We can spend most of our days working to someone else’s agenda, whether it’s our employers or our kids.  And then, in our “free” time, we are bombarded by things that other people would like us to do – school requirements, charity fundraising, doorstep polls, online surveys, recycling (mostly things that other people have sent us that we didn’t ask for): a capacity crowd of other people’s agendas pressing forwards for our attention, forcing our own priorities to the back, using a combination of persistence and guilt to get what they want.

And if that wasn’t enough, we allow ourselves to be influenced by the media and advertising and set ourselves impossibly high standards for our lives, which we then feel we “have to” live up to.   Our kids must eat home cooked food and get good grades.  The house must be clean, tidy and stylishly decorated.   We must be thin, groomed and well dressed.   We need to drive a cool car.  And we need to work really hard so we can afford it.

While we are frantically crowdsurfing, helping others get what they want, we lose sight of what we want or need.  We don’t make time to do the things that nourish us.  Joy diminishes and resentment grows.  We start to hoard our time and resources.  When we do give, we make sure “they” feel bad for imposing on us and try to get out of our obligations as soon as we can.  We are grumpy with those we love and bring those around us down.

While trying to please everyone we help no-one, ourselves least of all.

But by letting go of the “have tos”, we make space to live in a way that lights us up and (coincidentally) lifts others.   We are joyful, energetic, replenished and have more to give.

As a reader of this blog it’s more than likely that you live in a safe place, in a democratic country and are wealthy beyond most people’s wildest dreams.   We are blessed with freedom and choices.   Let’s not waste those opportunities away creating resentment and guilt.  Let’s use them to lift ourselves and others in a way that benefits us all.

The next time you feel overwhelmed, first be thankful that you have choices.  And then make some.

So what do you “have to” do today?  And what if you didn’t?