I heard it from Monique Greenwood, the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and owner of five bed and breakfast inns along the East Coast. It’s something I’ve heard many times before, but not in the way she said it. Like many of us, she moves at a fast pace, she takes on a lot, she runs a successful business and has a busy personal life. But there’s one big difference between her and many other successful women out there. She openly declares that despite her success, she doesn’t have it all… she only has what matters.
I haven’t stopped thinking about having what matters since I heard it. I coached two clients just this week about having what matters. I have a sticky note on my computer reminding me to seek only what matters. Especially this time of year when expectations are mounting, perfectionism is at a high, and your to-do list is overflowing, I beg you to ask yourself: are you trying to have it all or focusing on what matters?
Let me tell you how it’s worked for me over that past few weeks.
I’m not particularly passionate about the Thanksgiving meal, but I was willing to prepare it and provide the “experience” for my family. I will admit, it was stressing me out. It was getting closer and closer to the date and we still hadn’t made any plans. After weighing all the options and focusing on what was important, we decided to do something different. Although not what I would ever have done in the past, we decided to eat out on Thanksgiving.
The thought of not creating the home-cooked turkey experience for my family was hard for me accept, but the end result of this simple decision was pretty great. I had a relatively stress free week leading up to a usually busy, stressful day. I got to dress up, spend quality time with Hany and Norah (and I didn’t have to cook or clean a thing). And yet at the end of the day, I still had what matters.
I normally feel the need to go all out decorating the house for the holidays and make it feel “Christmasy.” This year, I just wasn’t that into it. The thought of lugging everything up from the basement, sorting through it, and then hauling it all back down just didn’t sound fun.
Instead of pushing through my feelings and sucking it up, I took the feeling as a sign to step back and ask myself what really matters. Over dinner that night I nonchalantly asked the family what was most important to them around holiday time.
Norah could care less about decorations, but she really wanted a tree (where would Santa put her gifts?). Hany just didn’t want a mess to clean up. Given this intel, I decided to have Norah pick out a small-ish tree in which she very happily decorated all by herself. No, it wasn’t easy on the eyes, but hey, I’m was looking at what matters here. I left most of the decorations in the basement and just put out a few candles. It was still festive in my house, she got to decorate the tree, and I wasn’t stressed about getting it all done.
It may not be the solution in the years to come, but that year, I stayed focused on what really matters.
I know that you have a long list of to-do’s before the end of this year. I know that if you’re like my clients, you are probably stressed out — it’s absolutely the number one issue I talk about with them. Work stress, family stress, food stress, being perfect stress, money stress, shopping stress, time stress, control stress…I have heard it all.
So in the spirit of taking back your sanity, instead of trying to have it all, why not try to have what really matters? What are 2-3 things you can scratch off your to do list? Perhaps you don’t absolutely HAVE to decorate each and every room in your house? Or maybe you don’t volunteer this time to help at the school? Or maybe you buy cookies for the cookie exchange instead of spending three nights baking?
What can you decide NOT to do that will take a huge weight off your shoulders right now, today?