Because if everything is important, nothing is.
Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. ~ Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin
Every year in my company, I send out an in-depth survey to find out just a little bit more about our readers and customers — asking questions about likes, dislikes, and where we can improve. I usually ask at least a few questions about goals, and for the past couple of years, I’ve also asked respondents to identify the one word they’d choose as their “word of the year.”
Do you know what word consistently comes up, again and again, usually more than any other word?
As women, we’re practically desperate for it, or so it seems. It’s this mythical, magical idea always lurking on the horizon, just out of our reach. We think it’s our lack of balance that is keeping us from having the life we want, and we convince ourselves that achieving balance is what will make us happy.
And because we’re certain we haven’t yet achieved this magical state of balance, we’re never quite satisfied with where we’re at. It doesn’t seem to matter what we’re working on or striving toward or what season of life we happen to be in, we’re consistently plagued by an underlying feeling that our life is somehow out of whack and off-kilter, a sense that when we spend too much time on any one thing, we are doing something wrong.
For those of us with kids or a family, there’s even a special name for this feeling.
It’s that feeling we are doing something wrong or neglecting our family or somehow damaging our children anytime we take care of ourselves, or focus on our career, or pursue one of our own passions or dreams. (And for the record, you don’t have to be a mom to experience it!)
It’s the guilt we have about saying no or even “not right now” — the guilt we have for not cooking every meal from scratch or for not spending hours scouring Pinterest in order to create clever bento box lunches. It’s the guilt we feel for putting our kids to bed twenty minutes early so we can watch Netflix in peace or for not chaperoning this month’s field trip or heading up the latest committee or fund-raiser.
It’s omnipresent guilt, always there in the background. All. The. Time. The little nagging voice that keeps telling us we should be more, do more, love more, nurture more, give more, serve more, be more present, be more spiritual, and be more intentional.
That little voice telling us that whatever we’ve done, it’s probably not enough.
But what if that voice is lying to us?
What if this idea of balance that we’ve convinced ourselves is not only possible but desirable actually isn’t? What if it’s just a myth? A fairy tale? A trap designed to hold us back from whole-heartedly pursuing our goals and dreams?
What if balance is somehow overrated?
As a working mom with a very busy and oftentimes incredibly demanding job, I certainly struggle with this dilemma on a regular basis — almost every single day, as a matter of fact. How can I be a good mom and a good wife and a good boss all at the same time? How can I focus on growing my business, leading my team, and achieving all those big goals and dreams that well up inside me, without letting down the people around me? After all, it’s not just me I have to think about. How do I balance my ambition with my responsibilities?
Because the reality is that it takes a lot to make a dream come true.
There’s a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice involved in pursuing a big goal. It means making difficult choices, and some- times it means prioritizing one important and worthwhile thing over another worthwhile and important thing. It also requires a willingness to believe in yourself and trust your choices and your priorities, even when no one else does.
And that’s really hard sometimes.
Because as excited as we might feel about reaching new milestones or attaining some big goal, the unspoken question that often remains in the back of our heads is this: Does pursuing my own dreams make me selfish?
The answer is yes… and no.
Sometimes we have to be selfish in order to get stuff done. Often we have to be willing to make sacrifices or forgo one objective in order to pursue another. At times these objectives will be in direct opposition to one another. And sometimes that’s okay. In fact, sometimes that’s the way it should be.
So when is it okay to push toward our own goals and when should we hold back? When is it okay to be selfish and when are we supposed to be selfless? When are we supposed to go all in and when should we just dip our toes?
IT’S OKAY TO GET OBSESSIVE
In a culture that pays a lot of lip service to striving for balance in all aspects of our life, the idea of obsession gets a bad rap. We’re taught to believe that it’s not healthy to focus too long or too hard on only one thing or to pour all our energy and efforts into a single area of our life. That we shouldn’t work too much or exercise too hard or practice too long.
“All things in moderation,” we say. But is that really true? I don’t think so. Greatness almost always comes from obsession. The world’s best literature and music and art and food, the most successful companies and inventions, the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries, the most incredible athletic achievements, have almost all been a direct result of relentless pursuit. The most successful and celebrated CEOs, artists, scientists, athletes, and entertainers have always been people who are willing to make sacrifices, to forgo balance in favor of focus in one very targeted area.
Over and over, the story is the same. Years of practice. Intense dedication. Personal sacrifice. Relentless pursuit. In fact, I would dare to assert that behind every truly notable achievement is a person who was willing to get obsessive.
And I also would propose that there is more to this than just obsession. For most of these people, their drive hasn’t stemmed only from passion or a desire to succeed, but also from a compelling sense of purpose — a need to contribute to the world and do something bigger than themselves. It’s a calling.
As a Christian, I believe we are called by God to use our unique gifts and talents and strengths to the best of our ability.
I also believe that the big dreams — the ones that spark fear and excitement inside of us — are divinely inspired. And to me, that means if we don’t get obsessive about using these gifts, pursuing these big dreams, and living out our calling, we are actually going astray.
We’re not called to balance; we’re called to purpose.
With that in mind, what do you think would happen if you gave yourself permission to go all in without feeling guilty? What would change if you were able to stop chasing some mythical idea of balance and instead allowed yourself to get obsessive about going after your dreams or pursuing your purpose? What would that mean for your life right now? What would have to change?
Excerpted with permission from Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup, copyright Ruth Soukup.
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We are called to purpose! It’s time to drop the Mom-guilt for good and use our unique gifts and talents and strengths to the best of our ability. Think about the above questions and come share your answers with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full