Happy Tuesday! We’re glad to welcome Lauren Fitzgerald back as a guest poster. If you’re like the rest of us, you sense there might be too many things going on in your life. We might need help saying “yes” to the right things and “no” to everything else. Get out your pen and paper – she has a really excellent exercise to share with us. I can’t wait to try it! ~Kristen
I am not a hat person.
There. I said it.
You will never find me wearing a hat while out shopping, or on a run, and especially not at church on Sunday. I feel like hats just make me look like I’m playing dress up. Meh. They’re just not me.
But I DO think trying on hats is fun. Have you ever gone into a store and found yourself trying on hats and taking goofy pictures with your friends? As you put on different types of hats, you immediately know which ones just do NOT fit. There’s always the ugly hat, the one you try on, gasp, and put it back super fast and pretend it never happened. Like this little beauty I tried on while on vacation in Baltimore:
What’s interesting though, is that if I look at the figurative hats I wear, I’m much less discriminating. I’m a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, youth worker, managing director, chauffer, coordinator, teacher, photographer, cook, public speaker, administrative assistant, decorator, volunteer, mentor, event planner, writer, runner…and the list goes on. Apparently I DO wear hats. Lots of them.
Take a minute, take out a piece of paper, and list all the hats you wear (in other words, the responsibilities you’ve taken on).
No really, go grab some paper. I’ll wait. We’re going to reference this list throughout this post.
Are you still writing? Do you have a long list going as well?
Why do you think we’re so ready and willing to wear so many hats? We can spot an ugly, ill fitting, crab hat a mile away and say NOPE! Not the right fit. But we don’t always do that with responsibilities, do we? Even when every fiber of our being tells us we should say NOPE, more often than not, we say yes.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having responsibilities. As adults and as women, responsibility is actually unavoidable. And some “stress” is actually good stress. It keeps you on your toes, keeps your mind sharp, and makes you more productive.
The problem comes when your shoulders start to feel incredibly heavy from the weight of all those hats piled up and teetering on your head. When your whole body, mind, soul and calendar feel weighed down by the things you’re responsible for. If this is you, lady friend, I wish I could give you a big hug, buy you a cup of coffee, and tell you it’s ok. Since I can’t, I want to share some steps you can take to make your shoulders feel a little freer, and your heart a little fuller.
Ask Yourself: How do these hats make me feel?
Look back at the list of “hats” you made. How does your list of responsibilities and “have-to’s” make you feel? Write down a few words.
When I ask ladies to do this, I most regularly see words like:
Before we can go any further, you have to see, feel, believe and understand that too many responsibilities equal disaster. Too many “yes’s” are actually not even healthy, and wearing too many hats is not sustainable long-term without some kind of mental breakdown. The kind of breakdown where you find yourself shuffling through Walmart in your bathrobe at 3:12 a.m., mumbling about frozen quiches. Not good.
But most importantly, you aren’t able to be your best self with these exhausting feelings and weights on your shoulders. So are we in agreement that too many hats is a bad thing? Excellent, let’s move on.
Ask Yourself: Where do my hats come from?
As you look at your list of hats, I want you to ask yourself where each one comes from. Sure, some we might say come from God, like wife, mother, daughter, etc. But I bet most of the hats were put on your head by you, and only you. Sure, you can say, “He gave me that responsibility” or “She asked me to do this.”
But you said yes.
In my professional and personal experience, I believe we as women say yes to responsibilities for one of three reasons:
- To please others
- Because we think we should
- Because we believe no one else will
Many times we even take on a responsibility with the intention of it being fun, right? You may even be thinking, “But I like a lot of these hats! They’re FUN!” Coordinating VBS will be FUN! Signing up to head up the PTA will be FUN! Planning a trip to the mountains for 50 will be FUN! Baking a gluten-free, peanut-free, dairy-free, soy-free snack for my son’s soccer team will be FUN!
But then, because we have so many other hats on our heads, the activities that should be fun now become another have-to, another chore, another project to manage in a raging sea of conflicting priorities. And we lose the enjoyment we should have found in the activity. We miss it completely. We’re too busy crossing things off our list.
Ladies, WE are the reason we’re overwhelmed. It’s us. It’s an inside job! Now, the good news is because that’s true, we are just the people to look inside ourselves and fix it.
Ask Yourself: What is most important to me?
Think back to the last few times you laid your head on your pillow at the end of a day and truly felt fulfilled. Just genuinely, 100% content with life.
What did you do that day that made you feel so fulfilled?
Those days when you can lay down at night and feel a deep sense of fulfillment are the days you need to pay attention to. I tracked mine for a while, and discovered a trend to feeling fulfilled. My best days are when I:
#1 Spend time with God
#2 Get quality time with family/friends
#3 Have a positive impact on others
Now that I know these things are crucial to feeling fulfilled, they have become my filter to show me when to say yes and when to say no. I (try to) only say yes to opportunities that allow me to check a combination of my four boxes. For example:
Do I want to teach the senior high girl’s class at church once per week for three months? It checks three of my four boxes. That’s a definite yes.
Will we be attending the three bouncy house birthday parties we’ve been invited to this weekend? Probably not. While it will allow us to spend time with friends, it will take away from family time, and will complicate God time, exercise time, and doesn’t exactly contribute to the greater good.
Do I want to be on the newest account at work? This particular one will help bring healthy, organic food to low-income families across the country, and won’t require multiple weeks of travel away from my family. Yup! I’m in.
So now…you. What is most important to you? What things fill you up and leave you feeling energized? Those are your filter. If you’re unsure what your filter should be, pray about it. God knows and He can guide you to the right mix.
Once you have your filter, go back through your list of hats. How many of your hats check the right boxes? If there are several that don’t check the boxes, do those hats fit you anymore? Probably not.
Ask Yourself: What will I do this week to lighten my load?
The reality is, it’s still possible to have way too many hats on your head even with your new filter. Here are a few things I do to make sure my hats don’t start to pile up:
- I put the big hats on my calendar first. The “big hats” are the important activities and responsibilities that either must happen or that leave me feeling the most fulfilled. For example, I schedule my devotional time, family requirements, and workouts like meetings each week. If you don’t put the most important things on your calendar first, your calendar will fill up with lots of little, insignificant things that become so numerous that they crowd out everything else.
- We don’t say yes to more than one request per weekend. There are lots of things that take place on the weekend, but that’s also the time we’re all together as a family. We found ourselves feeling stressed on weekends when we were shuttling between activities and finally made the call to put a quota on requests. And one weekend per month, we say no to all requests and just enjoy family time.
- Sunday evenings are planning time. Once the kids are in bed Sunday night, my husband and I sit down and look at the week ahead. We pray, compare schedules (his, mine, the kids, the church), assign who’s doing what, and ensure the big hats are scheduled and in place. Not only do our schedules sync up, but it’s a bonding experience too, like we’re both in this together and are committed to making the week work for us.
What will you do this week to lighten your load? Commit to it. Write it down. And most importantly, pray about it. Don’t allow yourself to feel weighed down, overwhelmed, and unfulfilled for another second.
And please, whatever you do, don’t wait until you have that 3 a.m. Walmart breakdown to take action. No one wants that.
Author Stephen Lloyd Garrett wrote: “You must decide what matters in your life before you can live a life that matters.” Decide what hats matter, ladies. And take off the ones that don’t. It’s ok, they didn’t fit you anyway.
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Lauren is a wife to Tony, mother to Lydia (4.5) and Trey (3), and the Managing Director of The Mom Complex in Richmond, Virginia. When she isn’t working with companies like Lego, Walmart, and Discovery to make motherhood easier, you’ll find her playing dress up or kicking a soccer ball in the backyard with her kids, heading out for a run, speaking at ladies days, or playing manhunt with her husband and the youth group at the Hopewell Church of Christ.