By Amber Hurdle
Q Amber, I feel so overwhelmed. I don’t know how I have gotten in this place of running myself to death and not being able to tend to what I really know is important. How do I dig myself out of this hole?
-Layla, Gladeville, TN
So many people get caught up in the busyness of life and obligations they committed to until they suddenly realize they have little time for what matters most. In our constantly connected world, this is so easy to do!
It reminds me of the time I was at Newport Beach in California and had a very scary moment.
My dad took us to the beach frequently as we were growing up. I was a strong swimmer and I could handle riding even a ten-foot face wave with ease. I was a total beach bum and body boarding pro for a kid. I’m sure you have a level of experience that gives you a sense that you have a great capacity to take things on, as well.
Like any afternoon at the beach I was one of the furthest out in the ocean. I rode in wave after wave. I was RIPPIN’ it!
I felt so good about the perfect surf conditions of the day and getting nods and accolades from fellow surfers that I started focusing on being competitive and self important.
In doing so, I ignored my dad’s main beach rules:
1. Respect the ocean. It is powerful.
2. If you can’t see me, I can’t see you, and you need to get back in my line of sight.
You see, when you’re in the ocean the tide naturally causes you to drift. With each wave that crashes around or on you, you are taken further from what you are supposed to be focusing on.
And I drifted FAR from my focus.
In fact, I had drifted so far from where our towels and coolers were and I had gone so far out to prove that I could handle it, that when I got into trouble I was past the point of return.
A monster wave was swelling and my adrenaline was rushing.
I jumped on my board and started paddling, ready for the gnarliest ride of the day…until I realized that I miscalculated. I didn’t get into the pocket fast enough and instead of riding the wave in to shore, the wave crashed right on me…far from shore…far from any of the surfers…even farther from my dad.
It was one of the scariest moments of my young life. The wave pushed the nose of my board down, and since the board was connected to my ankle by a cable, my body was thrust downward with it. I felt sand on my face, so I knew I hit the bottom of the ocean, but it was pitch black, so as I floated back up I didn’t know which way was up or down.
Do you ever feel like you have gotten so far off track, that the waves of life are crashing all around you and you don’t know which way is up or down? Have you ever taken on so much that you miscalculate your next steps until you find your life is out of your control?
Fortunately, a strong surfer watched what happened to see me and dragged me out of the water.
Of course, I was an even spunkier redhead then than I am now and I acted like everything was OK. The reality was I could have drowned. Trust me, I downplayed it to my dad, too, when I knew he was already disappointed in me for my poor decisions!
Do you ever downplay just how much you’re drowning to the people you love most so they won’t expect you to change your behavior?
Do you ever negate the fact that the problem isn’t always the ocean of life drifting you away from your focus, but perhaps it’s that you keep saying, “yes” to things that aren’t in line with your life’s focus?
Are you afraid to say “no” because then you won’t look like the expert or feel important and needed?
Now, I’m not picking on you, Layla. I understand where you are coming from and have to take my own medicine regularly. What I want to point out to you and especially to women in general, is that it is easy to get busy trying to be everything to everybody and find personal value in doing so. Before you know it, you find yourself drowning because you veer so far away from what is most important and have taken on more than you can handle. Then the craziest thing is you are determined to prove that you can handle it!
What you need to remember is your own values. Your life’s “beach rules,” if you will.
So I ask you, Layla, what are the most important parts of your life? What values do you personally hold dear?
Now, what are you committed to that doesn’t align with your answers to those two questions?
Eliminate anything that doesn’t support your life’s priorities. That might mean telling someone, “no” or backing out of something you previously committed to. While I know you don’t want to let the people down that you have made commitments to, how much more are you letting the people down you love the most by continuing with the commitment? Eliminating what keeps you from your highest priorities might mean changing jobs or even careers.
I was lucky that day that someone found me struggling and then saved me from drowning; but I challenge you to save yourself before you drift too far away and have to depend on luck, too.
Find your shore and stay close to it. Be sure those who are most important to you are in clear focus, and be sure you are highly visible to them, as well.
When those things are in order, THEN you can finally enjoy the gnarliest ride of your life, too!