Whack-a-mole (Home Edition)

The beauty of whack-a-mole when you pay to play it is that you can go all out as there is a limited amount of time before the clock runs out. You can swing with fury as those furry buggers pop up at random and do so without risk of running out of steam before time expires. In this format, there is even a possibility that you win. It might just be 1,000 tickets that you can trade in for a yo-yo that doesn’t work but evaluating the merits of this being a win is for another article. Most importantly it’s fun!

Now, I wouldn’t describe the Home edition of Whack-a-mole as fun. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. It’s endless. I think I would describe the experience best as soul-sucking and I’m pretty certain it’s been my (unconscious) participation in this ridiculous game that has brought an end to pretty much every good habit that I have tried to form over the years. Thinking about it now is even exhausting and it was even more exhausting at the time.

What I am trying to get at with this quirky analogy is that we have areas of importance that pop up during different seasons of our lives and in those moments they feel as though they are the most important things. Like the mole that pops up in the game, they get all of our attention. We don’t worry about the ones that are below the surface – we just focus on crushing what’s in front of us. 

We can do this with a level of success, much like the game we pay to play, but in real life, it’s just not sustainable. For example, I couldn’t even count how many times my workout plan fell apart because of other commitments. Or how many times a vacation or holiday imploded months of progress in shaping good eating habits. Or times I’ve nailed nutrition and working out only to have the rest of my life fall apart because I was only able to achieve these at the cost of not getting enough sleep or giving up something else of importance. Old Kev may have also been guilty of confusing consuming fewer calories with nutrition and wasn’t giving himself the fuel to make any of this sustainable. I can honestly go and on here with examples as I have a lifetime of starting and stopping things like French lessons, running, my on and off again romance with yoga, learning the guitar, staying connected with friends . . . I really just needed to stop typing as the list truly could go on forever. I’m hoping you get my point.

I could look at this and declare that it’s tragic but I don’t. I’m also not sad when I look at this list and I don’t ever wish for something different or play what if. These are all awesome things and I honestly enjoy them all very much (I’m excluding the sore fingers you get from playing guitar – no thanks!) but there is more to this than what I might enjoy. I say that with a belief that they all might have a place in my life at some point but it’s certainly not now and the long list of failures informs me that the timing wasn’t right either. 

To be honest, when I think about the list of all these activities, programs, diets, workouts, etc. that I have failed at over the years I feel so at peace about it. I have gratitude that I left them behind. It was too much. None of it was sustainable evidenced by the fact that I didn’t keep going. I also noticed that everything that I made progress with was at the cost of something else. In actuality, it wasn’t progress. It was more like a trade-off or a terrible compromise. 

In my experience, when we feel that we are off balance (my kind term for being deficient in something we need to feel our best) we tend to take on something new to address the void. For example, I feel the need to be creative so I’ll take up photography for example (yup, I could add this one to the list above too) but I didn’t have time to do this. It came at the cost of something else. As other things were neglected, I felt more and more off balance and I would add new things to try to feel better. I’d take on more responsibility at work, I would increase my engagements with friends, I’d be out more during the week and it would just keep building up and up and up until I eventually crashed and ended up doing nothing that served me. It’s a sucky cycle to be caught in – I would slowly let everything slip until something jolted me or I felt like I hit a bottom. Only then would I see the need to do something different and I would restart this whole cycle again. It could have been that my buttons were pulling on my shirt, that I was falling asleep at my desk on a Wednesday morning or that I was so exhausted that I wasn’t living my values. I’ll be honest, It was lots of things.

I can appreciate why it felt “right” to add more of what I liked. It kind of makes sense that surrounding yourself with more of what fills your boots would make life more awesome. Yet I can confirm that after 20+ years of experimenting with this in my adult life it just never, ever works. It’s just not sustainable.

So what’s the answer you ask?

It’s to do less. Well, that’s a small piece of the answer. The bigger piece and the game changer is to actually do less but do it better. That’s right, do it better than anything that you have been trying to accomplish before.

Here is how this works, it’s really simple. By identifying what you truly need to feel your best you can focus your energy on practicing these habits daily. For me it looks like this – you can laugh at the simplicity but it works – (1) Sleep – it makes me a better person and it’s the foundation for everything I do, (2) Nutrition – putting good things into my body so that I can feel my best and (3) Journaling – I get the crazy thoughts out of my head and onto a page where I can make sense of them and be thoughtful about what I am doing and how I am showing up (4) Exercise – I used to think this was such a big thing but I have a plan that I consistently follow 3 x per week (really, that’s it!) and it’s super sustainable (5) Family Time – this is the most important to me but I need all the previous habits to show up my best for this one and finally (6) Passion and Inspiration – after fulfilling the above I make sure that I am using the moments in my schedule to find inspiration, to write, to learn and to do things that truly leave me feeling fulfilled. 

Everything else, well, fits in, if and when and wherever it can once I have satisfied the important elements of my practice which I just shared above. If it doesn’t fit in, I’m OK with this too as if it was truly important it would be addressed within one of the areas I focus on. I fully comprehend the value created by doing these well, giving them my focus and committing to practicing every day. The positive impact it has on my life is extraordinary and it positively impacts everything that I do. 

We live in a society where we hand out badges of honour for being busy and doing the most. This is crazy and it comes at a huge cost to us personally and to those who we love most. 

It doesn’t have to be this way though as there is another option available to us. It’s an option that is far more fun, feels endlessly lighter, is sustainable over our lifetime and if we are being honest, able to produce far better outcomes. Who wouldn’t want to sign up for that! 

So here it is. 

Do less. 

Be very thoughtful about what you do, ensure it supports what you want most and do it even better than you might be doing now.