“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.
Dear 23-year-old me,
Pause for a minute. OK, 30 seconds. I know you’re busy. I want to tell you something—something that might help that panicked, FOMO feeling you’re suppressing. You know, the feeling you get when you try to figure out how to fit in exercise, a corporate career, volunteering at your church, grocery shopping, budgeting, being a good friend, planning your friend’s wedding and cleaning your apartment.
Here what I want to tell you—stop trying to do it all.
Wait, before you start protesting that everything you’re doing is absolutely necessary, let me say that I know you don’t spend hours watching TV or scrolling on your phone. Give me another few seconds and hear me out. (Yes, you can clean your kitchen while listening if that makes you feel better.)
You won’t ever be able to do it all. There will always be just one more thing to do. You’ll get more efficient with your time, yes, but there will always be more—not even Beyoncé does it all.
You won’t ever be able to do it all. There will always be just one more thing to do.
I know you don’t agree. After all, you are pretty successful. You’re tired, yes, but you’re not depressed. While it feels like a lot at times, it’s all good things. I know you’re even a little annoyed that I’m interrupting your Saturday morning cleaning routine with this “pause for a minute” speech.
Here’s the thing that I wish I knew better when I was 23—the worth and meaning you’re looking for doesn’t come from doing it all. Meaning comes from living a life of intention—a life aligned with your purpose and your calling as a child of God. That purpose, that calling, might look different in different seasons.
In some seasons, it might look like a demanding corporate job. In others, it might look like a part-time job. In some seasons, it might look like an impeccable house and thoughtful, paleo meals. While in others, it might look like some clutter and Chick-fil-A.
Your goal is not to mindlessly do it all. Your goal is to choose the things that matter—the things you’re called to do in your particular season.
Your goal is not to mindlessly do it all. Your goal is to choose the things that matter.
I see you just paused from wiping down the counters. It’s OK. You can stop and think for a minute. The world won’t stop. As you do, let me share with you the practical strategies that have helped me calm the mental panic and free up time to focus on what matters.
Minimize the mental load. Use the reminders app on your phone to remember those small things you need to do (like ordering those flowers or sending the birthday card). This way you can quiet the noise in your head.
Just start. Count down from five seconds and stop procrastinating on the tasks you have to do. Wake up five minutes earlier and spend those minutes praying and reflecting on what matters. Give yourself this gift to start your day. Focus on 1 percent progress—not 100 percent. Small actions lead to big results. Trust the process.
Invite grace. Stop measuring yourself by how well you did something and extend kindness instead. Mistakes happen. Learn from what you can and keep moving forward.
Stop measuring yourself by how well you did something and extend kindness instead.
Go ahead and finish cleaning the kitchen. I know it will bug you if you don’t. That’s OK. Then, write this down somewhere you can see it.
You’re not going to ever do life perfectly, and that’s OK. Take a deep breath. You’re not enough, but you don’t need to be. God is, and that’s all that matters. Do what matters for the season you’re in now, and forget the rest. You’ll feel better. I promise.
Have you ever experienced feelings of burn out or like you were taking on more than you could handle? Where do you think this mindset of having to “do it all” stems from?
Image via Studio Grand-Père