Everyday madness: How not to lose yourself

Everyday madness: Somewhere between your job, family, emails, healthy living, the expectations of others, between mail from your insurance company and doctor’s appointments… somewhere in between all of that, there is YOU. And sometimes it feels like you’ve somehow lost yourself inmidst of all this chaos and stress, doesn’t it?

But why is that even so? And even more importantly: How can you manage a balance between your daily grind and yourself?

How can you manage a balance between your daily grind and yourself?

Recently, I’ve written about figuring out what you really want to achieve in life. In that post, I’ve also talked about your “basic values” which can run like a thread through your life and give you a purpose.

Back when I discovered this concept of basic values for myself, I was really excited about it. For the first time in my life, I could see (reasonably clearly) what I wanted to do next with my life. (Or at the very least, I could see what I really did NOT want to do. That can be worth a lot, too!)

But over time, I’ve discovered that a focus on my basic values also gives me something so much more valuable:

Assistance and guidance in the everyday madness of my life.

I’ll just assume that a lot of your days look pretty much like mine: You’ve got about 153 things which still need to be done. Among them: Things you’ve pushed off for quite a while (get a new dentist’s appointment). Things you’ve pushed off for too long altogether (buy new winter shoes for the kids). Things with a deadline (insurance forms). Really, REALLY urgent things (buy bathroom tissue). And of course, all of that alongside your job. After all, each day has 24 hours, and then you’ve still got the night at your disposal…

In addition to that stuff, the phone rings. One of your kids needs a present for a birthday party on short notice. You should prepare the lunch boxes and dinner for tomorrow in advance, since there really won’t be time to do that tomorrow.

And then there’s the stuff that would actually be important: Kid 1 wants to play Monopoly with you. Kid 2 needs help with his Maths homework. You’ve wanted to call your sister back for a while now. Spend a quiet hour with your partner, or watch a movie together. For months, you’ve wanted to meet some friends. And you REALLY wanted to live healthier this week, eat more veggies and do your fitness program.

Oh, right, and somewhere between all this stuff, there’s you, and somehow, you just feel a bit lost in this melee.

Getting all of that done just isn’t possible. To match all expectations, to be there for all people, to do everything well and right — it just can’t be done.

So common sense tells us that we have to lower our sights, that there will have to be trade-offs and compromises, that we can’t have (or do) everything.

But at this point, we oftentimes falls into a perfidious way of thinking: If there isn’t enough time for everything, then I just need to get organized better. And behind that, there’s the thought: I’m simply not good enough yet.

At this point, I want to be clear about one thing: With good organizational strategies, you really CAN make your everyday life a lot easier. I’ve tried a lot of such strategies myself, have dumped most of them again, and have indeed found a few which actually work and which are also suitable for everyday use. (I might tell you more about that on another day…)

No matter how well organized you are, there will always be more demands on you than you have time in your day.

But the really mean, underhanded thing is this: No matter how well organized you are, there will always be more demands on you than you have time in your day.

Yeah, really. Feel free to try, by getting even better organized. You will always have to make do with some compromises and less-than-ideal solutions.

It was at this point when getting clear on my basic values has given me back my serenity and my pleasure at being able to spend my days with the people around me.

(Fine, fine, let’s be completely honest: It has given me back my serenity about most things of my everyday life. I still hate cleaning the bathroom or filing insurance papers…)

But how can that work? How can such an abstract concept help you to deal with your everyday madness?

Basic values are the values with which you align your life, because they are really important to you.

Note that the emphasis here is on “YOU”! Honesty doesn’t turn into one of your basic values just because your parents kept preaching about it. Punctuality isn’t one of your basic values just because you’re afraid to lose your job if you’re late. We’re being very strict here: We’ll only accept values as YOUR basic values if they really are important for YOU. No matter what others might think about your value list… 😉

Basic values by themselves are a pretty abstract concept. Things like friendship, respect, freedom or happiness can have a variety of meanings, and could mean a ton of different things in your life.

But if you start to life your own basic values every day, they will become much more tangible to you, and they can actually change your life. Whenever you’re aware of your own set of basic values, they will influence your behavior in everyday situations, and will thus bring more fulfillment and joy into your life.

For example, if you know that the basic value “friendship” is especially important to you, it’ll be a lot easier to find time for a short phone call to a friend, or for a relaxed cuppa coffee together. (And in return, it’ll be easier to just leave the laundry be for another day. Sometimes you really need to set priorities, and your basic values will help you with that…)

By considering your basic values when you make decisions, you won’t change your life completely within a day (not even within two days) — but these small decisions are going to improve the quality of your life and will carry you over the other parts of your day.

Imagine just how often you have to make such (presumably) “small” decisions: Play a quick game of basketball with your son or file some papers? Take the pasta with creamy sauce or the vegetable platter? Each one of them, separately, isn’t a big deal. But overall, through weeks and months, all these small decisions add up and are the main source of a fulfilled life which follows your very own basic values.

You can’t do everything. And you definitely can’t do everything perfectly.

And this is where we get back to that ideal of a work-life balance: You can’t do everything. And you definitely can’t do everything perfectly. But over and over again, you can make room and time for the things which are especially important to you – but only if you’re aware of what these things are…

And now how would all this help you with the really big, important, difficult decisions in your life?

Quite simply: If you’re aware of your own basic values… if you practice making small decisions in accord with these basic values… if you learn to accept that a decision for something also means a decision against other things…

… then whenever you get to make one of the big decisions, it’ll be a lot easier to find your very own path, and to follow your very own values.

This is the second part of my series about basic values. You can read the first part here: What do I really want?

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