I’ve been spending rather a lot of time spelunking through the mountains of documents archived on my small but mighty laptop. Apparently I don’t throw away digital files very often, which is odd, because I can be ruthless when it comes to clearing actual closets.
In my virtual subterranean travels I discovered I’ve been contributing to KOM since (woo-hoo!) 2016. I also unearthed a ton of other speaking, writing and teaching I’ve done. (There’s a LOT here.)
Looking back across all of that, I realized I could see a repeating pattern of weeks or months of juggling way too many plates at once – like crazy amounts of flying plates followed by weeks or months of collapse.
The thing is, everything I was doing was something I loved, something that made a difference in the world.
Now there are too many things involved in how and why I (and lots of other heart-centered practice owners) create this not-so-healthy pattern to cover in one article. For today, I want to look at the bit known as bright shiny object – or magpie syndrome. Collecting attractive, interesting, even world-changing opportunities until we’re overflowing and drowning in All. The. Things.
How could I say no?
The world is on fire. Anything I can do to help, I need to be doing. I do believe that.
I can at least say I was listening to my inner wisdom enough to only be saying “yes” to things I love to do: classes, speaking opportunities, writing all sorts of things like poetry, articles and posts. If my life and work were overflowing, at least it was with good and world-serving things. Right?
Yes – and – I was creating an overstuffed, overwhelming, unsustainable environment with no still, quiet place at the center for myself to hear me. That didn’t leave enough space to connect fully with discernment, inner wisdom, even self-compassion; and not enough space to find a dynamically balanced and sustainable approach to doing everything I can be doing to help. Sound familiar?
It seems like common sense to say that the still, quiet space of my intuitive, inner wisdom must anchor the center of my life and work. But – and here’s where it gets sticky – those of us who are dedicated helpers – healers, counselors, coaches, activists, changemakers, teachers, etc. – are often the first people to lose our common sense to our sense of social and community responsibility.
The world benefits more when we do less.
I’m going to guess that most of this isn’t new information. I’ll bet you’re aware that good boundaries, the appropriate use of “no,” listening to your inner wisdom, practicing good self-care are all important things.
What we often forget is that wise, compassionate, well-boundaried responses are only possible when we are already well-resourced and resilient.
So, yes, this does seem like a bit of a Catch-22; but there are ways to interrupt the pattern and cultivate your own resilience.
One of my favorite practices is to spend 5 – 10 minutes daily seeing myself as the still point at the center of my life. Plates can be spinning all around me, but I’m a well of calm. I do this visualization sitting in stillness, breathing deeply and slowly (for me) while sometimes inhaling essential oils or incense. I sometimes call this ‘breathing myself home.”
Try to remember you’re not the only one who can – or is – doing something to make a difference. Is it possible to let the thing go entirely because it’s already in good hands? If you must take something on, can you ask for help or partner with someone? It’s possible to believe in something without needing to take it on as a project. Notice if there are alternate ways to offer support like donating money or tangible resources or sharing the project with your network.
Also, be honest with yourself about the holding capacity of your life. Do some internal research and get clear about how much time/energy you realistically have to devote to projects – even when they’re utterly aligned with you and your values. Make a ROE (Return on Energy) budget and stick with it!