I’m a recovering perfectionist. I once remember describing to one of my coaches the fact that I didn’t like to “sit around twiddling my thumbs.” A part of me still believes that my self-worth — my inherent value as a human being — derives from what I accomplish. Can I get an “amen” if you relate to this experience?

Then, of course, we have the myths of the predominate culture: being “the best” or “outstanding” is the goal, you must work hard so you can have enough, and there’s never enough so you have to keep chasing something. Add these cultural stories to beliefs like I mentioned above and we create suffering for ourselves and our families. Driven by these messages and the fears that underlie them — chiefly “I’m not loveable/worthy/pretty/rich/smart/sexy/comptent/accomplished/etc. enough” — we put ourselves on a life treadmill so we can do more faster and get to that promised destination sooner. The problem is that:

faster ≠ better

more ≠ fulfillment

arriving sooner at the “destination” ≠ a pleasurable journey

stuff/accomplishment/others’ acknowledgment ≠ lasting self-love or self-worth

What often occurs instead — especially in terms of family life — looks more like:

faster = less connected

more = overwhelm and dissatisfaction

arriving sooner at the “destination” = nagging, frustration, missed opportunities

stuff/accomplishment/others’ acknowledgment = less of what truly matters to you and children who equate their self-worth with extrinsic things and others’ opinions

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.”

~Natalie Goldberg

You can begin to step off the life treadmill

Rather than thinking of this idea as another “to do,” I invite you to simply approach it as a short experiment. There are only 2 simple steps. Each time you do the experiment you’ll need no more than 20 seconds.

  1. Pick an object you’re likely to see at least several times throughout your day as your friendly reminder object (e.g., your refrigerator, computer, car, phone, toilet, child, spouse, family pet, TV).
  2. Each time you see your friendly reminder object, physically stop what you’re doing and take 4 intentional breaths (this simply means to slowly breathe in and out 4 times while doing no other activity).

The purposes of this experiment are to:

  • intentionally slow you down — which helps increase feelings of peace, connection, and clarity
  • build micro-pauses into your day — which can ease stress and anxiety
  • reconnect you with yourself — which helps you be more responsive, gentle, and patient

Together, these mini self-connection slow downs, can start to shift larger portions of your day and change the energy in your body. Instead of feeling rushed from the moment you awake in the morning, you might begin noticing seconds, minutes, or even hours that feel calmer and less bogged down by stress or worry.

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

~ Etty Hillesum

I would love to hear from you if you take on this experiment. How did it go? Did you notice any changes? Was it difficult? I’d also welcome your input about the support families like yours most want. Fill out my 3-minute survey on the challenges of family life.