Does this sound like you? You've never done just one thing your whole life. You are a complex machine constantly needing to be kept in balance. You have a lot of needs- physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, social. You also have duties in life- job, family, and close relationships- and must be sure to prioritize those. You want to have a strong spiritual life and nurture your relationship with the Lord. In your hard-earned free time you have so many options of things you can do (which is a blessing!) but it's overwhelming.
Whaaaaaaat the heck. We may find ourselves asking how balance could even be possible. I'm sharing a ten-minute exercise I created for myself that has been helpful in discerning how I spend one of my most precious commodities: My time. Discerning involves saying not just yes, but also no. I hope this exercise brings you greater peace and helps you become more the person you're called to be.
Discerning well involves saying no to things that either waste time or are low priority.
This Fall has been an incredibly happy and busy time, with never a dull moment. My husband kindly but honestly had to point out that I was using up “the communal family energy pot.” That wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but he was right. My multitude of pursuits were making me exhausted and cranky instead of contributing to family wholeness.
God doesn't call us to do everything. Sometimes I try to call myself to do everything and it doesn't work.
So, here are five simple questions that will help you discern which activities to keep and which to let go of. (Plus, they only take 10 minutes!) I find they clarify my vision and help absolve me of feeling guilt, what-if, or self-pity when I choose to simplify.
How great are the benefits/what kind of benefits does this activity bring me? (e.g. great spiritual benefit, a small monetary benefit, etc.)
Does this activity interfere with my primary duties of my state in life?
Do the benefits outweigh the cost for me and those to whom I am obligated? (e.g. maybe your children cry when you leave to go out with a friend occasionally; however, the benefits may still outweigh the trouble for your emotional health).
Does this activity give me energy overall, or take away energy?
How do I feel after doing this activity- does it contribute to or take away wholeness?
And don't forget to start by surrendering everything to God and asking him to help you discern well! One further idea: write out your typical weekly schedule and look at it. Is there wiggle room for relaxation and spontaneous activity, or are you scheduled within an inch of your life? Do you “cheat” by trying to do activity that rightly belongs in your leisure time, when you should be giving yourself to your primary vocation? As with many choices, the right answers will start to emerge as you journal and dig into the questions.
When I did this exercise, I started to notice that part of the reason I was doing an activity that was giving me disproportional amounts of stress vs. benefit was to please someone or to fulfill some idea of myself that really didn’t matter in the long run.
Here's a little stream of consciousness from my journal: “I informally said six months ago that I wanted to run this activity. I want to be the kind of person who follows through when they say they will do something and means what she says. However, now I realize six months later that my desire to be that kind of person is outweighing the benefits my family will get from me doing this activity. It causes my husband stress to have to watch the kids for hours, it causes me more stress than it’s worth, and the financial benefits aren’t worth it. Overall, I should let this activity go. I will explain to the person that it doesn’t make sense now for my family, and that I have learned it’s better to refrain from committing myself for a future activity too far in advance. I can let go of the thoughts that say 'you’re a flake; you’re losing yourself; your skills will disappear,' and instead live in the present and be okay with simplicity. After all, fulfilling my duties as a mom takes a ton of energy. I can go easy with myself and build in relaxation time at the end of the day instead of staying up late planning for or fulfilling this activity.”
Happy discerning. May peace, spiritual health, and a fulfilling life be yours :)