"I belong to the clean plate club." This is what a friend said recently as we were dining at a scrumptious eatery. He ate every last bite.
I said, "I belong to the full plate club." Which had nothing to do with the food. I was, of course, referring to how full my life plate is - it seems - all the time.
What's interesting as that my mind keeps telling me how full my plate is so that constantly becomes true. Sometimes when our life plates are very full with projects, deadlines, obligations and expectations, our ego mind plays tricks on us, telling us that we're going to fall short or we're not good enough. And, it can particularly happen when you’re asking yourself to stretch.
In other words, when you’re asking your brain to operate on all cylinders, the chatter to stop yourself can get really loud. Sometimes so loud that we stop the forward motion. Standing still is easier.
For me, I was looking for a way to be a bit easier on myself. Working hard every day can be exhausting and when you're building toward something important it can feel like it takes forever to get there. And, frankly sometimes that darn full plate can be so overwhelming it causes inertia.
Mel Brooks said, “If you're alive you've got to flap your arms and legs, you've got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at very least think noisy and colorfully, or you're not alive.”
This got me thinking about how the most important way to address the full plate is just to show up. To show up, every day. Set aside the ego thoughts about how full it is.
Showing up means truly being alive, saying yes to yourself.
In order to understand what that means it can be helpful to explore the opposite of this, saying no to yourself. What does that feel like? Saying no to yourself is what brings the icky feeling of the constantly full plate in the first place. Saying no is the inertia, a numbing out in order to avoid disappointment and feeling like a failure. At times like this your ego brain takes over, numbing you out with activities that stop the yes. The numbing is removing your mind from the present moment, from being fully alive in your body, and from the circumstance you want to be focusing on. Numbing activities can include surfing any and all of yoru devices, over sleeping, eating when you’re not hungry, drinking, or burying yourself in frivolous activities.They can be addictive, so acknowledgement is the first step. I can become addicted to jigsaw puzzle and word game apps! They're a time suck and they numb. you. out.
So, here are some ideas to help you show up for yourself every day:
- Awareness – be aware when you start to venture into a numbing activity, or if you hear yourself regularly quoting Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day,” in other words putting off today what you can do tomorrow.
- Fully engage by anchoring yourself in the room – fully recognize the objects around you, feel your body in your chair, feel the texture of your clothing, notice the tapping of your fingers on the computer keys, the push of the pen against your middle knuckle, the grain of the wood on the desk in front of you. Being present can pull you away from being numb and plop you back into your important work.
- Use your breathing – connect to your breath by pausing to take ten deep breaths. If you can, go outside. Breathing in nature can clear your mind in a good way.
- Get physical – regular exercise such as yoga increases the dopamine in your brain, which increases your capacity to absorb and assimilate information.
- Promise yourself to strive for excellence in all things, even the most mundane tasks. Treat each task as importantly as the one before and after. If you’re working in a job that doesn’t necessarily feed you except to simply put food on the table, show up in every way at that job.
- Ask yourself at the beginning of each day, “How can I be excellent today?” “How can I show up?”
And, at the end of the day, “What brought me joy today?” Strive to find the answer in the simple things and every day tasks.
Above all else, say Yes and show up for yourself.