Many of us, of course, don't have a choice about being in the race. The practicality of needing food and shelter drives us forward even when we're so, so tired of putting one foot in front of the other. We keep going, chasing the cheese, and sometimes we don't even finish. Or maybe we feel like there's a cat waiting to consume us at the first sign of fatigue or that we're some kind of science experiment.
I think this is what's behind much of the work-life movement. People don't want to be slaves to their work. They're tired of not having a life while they put in long hours. They don't want to have to worry if they'll lose their jobs for taking time off with a new baby or asking to cut back their hours.
Even if we feel like we've made good decisions, it's all too easy to get caught up in work. We can be satisfied with how we spend our time and yet wonder if we ought to be doing it differently. Well-meaning people criticize us and tell us we "should" be home or that we "should" make work a bigger priority. We hear about the newest top rat and think "that could have been me if only..."
So I believe in staying positive about ourselves, our circumstances, and our choices, which is, of course, easier said than done. I've got a few ideas:
1. Listen to ourselves. Trust that inner voice that tells you you need a different job or that you'd work better from home. Sometimes, at least for me, it's not always obvious that I'm stressed or unhappy, so sometimes my body tells me to change things by causing me pain.
2. Trust ourselves. Once we decide on a course of action, it's easy to second guess ourselves or listen to other people who think they know better or to worry about the consequences of our decisions. So trusting means that we honor our own ability to make good choices and believe that we're capable of handling whatever comes our way as a result.
3. Stop comparing. This isn't easy to do when it looks like someone else has figured things out better than we have, especially when we attach a "should" to it. "She has six kids and works fifty hours a week, so I should be able to handle those extra projects," or ""Her house looks so much better than mine."
4. Recognize our accomplishments. When we're looking ahead of ourselves, it's easy to become overwhelmed with how far we have to go. But it helps to realize that in order to get where we are now, we did some pretty amazing things. We had plenty of triumphs, learned from our mistakes, and did things we didn't know we were capable of. We can also extend this to the present and future. Surely our amazing selves didn't suddenly quit being awesome however many years ago. Even if we're not using the same talents in the same way now, our talents and abilities are still there, even if they're so buried they're practically fossilizing.
5. Make time for what matters most. You know, all that relationship and self-care stuff--that ridiculously indulgent dessert and that night out at the movies. Recharging helps release stress and inspires us to remember that we're doing more than racing rats--we're creating a life for ourselves and the people who matter.