“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
~ Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
After authoring my first book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology, I asked my brother-in-law and author, Dr. José J. Bauermeister: “Having written your own volume, what advice would you give me now that I wrote my first book?” His answer was simple, yet revealing. José said, “Pace yourself.”
I thereafter discovered — at least in my case – that writing a book on the meaning of life would heighten such interest and curiosity that time would become one of my most prized resources. Indeed, pacing myself now plays an important role in my life – particularly if I am going to be true to my goal of living a life full of meaning. You see, you and I can get so busy with doing “stuff” – even meaningful activities — that it is easy to miss following the right priorities, including taking care of our own needs. What about you, are you attending to your needs?
An Empty Vessel Cannot Fill a Cup
In my practice I advise my clients that it is important to set time aside to take care of the mind, body and spirit –- or to build and recharge our batteries, if you will. My mindfulness training has also reminded me of the importance of paying attention and being present. I am of the type that if I do not pay attention I charge on doing work and other activities despite being tired. Eventually being tired drains my capacity to perform well and dims my usual positive mood. Fortunately, even though I am still a work in progress, through mindfulness I have learned to pay attention to what my body and mind are telling me, and to respond in a responsible and nurturing way.
Even when doing good and meaningful deeds, it is important to be mentally, physically and spiritually charged with a willing disposition. I have also told my students that an empty vessel cannot fill a cup. We first need to be filled with positive mental energy, the right knowledge, good health, and the physical strength to perform in order to provide a service and collaborate with others. Moreover, taking time off has been reported to have a positive effect on engagement. That requires planning and investing time to pace ourselves in order to take care of our needs.
Here are few tips on how to plan and pace for a meaningful life:
- Make sure your meaningful life purpose includes developing and taking care of your mental, spiritual and physical well-being.
- Set realistic goals. Don’t fill up your and other people’s life with activities that end up needlessly depleting energy. Make a goal for quiet and rest time.
- Prioritize your goals and pace your activities so that they are stretching yet not overbearing.
- Simplify your life by getting rid of potential stressors. Take note of those events and people who stress you out, and do something constructive to reduce worry and anxiety from your life. Befriend people and perform meaningful activities that give you energy and build your optimism.
- Invest time on what really matters in life. Follow meaningful purpose psychology’s five life’s meaningful strivings by giving priority to loving others, doing things that will give you peace of mind, enjoying fun-rich activities, doing interesting things with interesting people in interesting places, and prospering in all facets of your life. (To learn more about the Five Meaningful Life Strivings you can read my book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose; and my post, “What is Meaningful? And why knowing matters?”)
- Be patient and forgiving when you fall short of expectations and your standards. Learn from your mistakes and setbacks, and avoid meaningless debilitating guilt and self-criticism. Just start again and rely on your meaningful support system to encourage you forward.
- Make it a goal to pay attention to what your body, mind, and spirit are telling you. Notice how your body feels, and respect your physical needs. Recognize when your thoughts turn meaningless; and as a result distract your attention from thinking and doing what is meaningful. Remain aware of your mental moods and attitude, and remind yourself of your meaningful existence and the purpose you are called by life to fulfill.
- Take time off to rest and enjoy other important areas of your life.
- Finally, write on a 3×5 inch card seven triggers that will remind you of the previous points; place the card in a visible place at home (where you will unavoidably see the card at least once a day), and build the resolve to act on them, and to monitor your progress. Without monitoring these seven tips you will not “tip” your behavior toward the meaningful, and hence rather than pacing yourself you will end up in the clichéd treadmill.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
~ John Lubbock, The Use of Life
©2014. Luis A. Marrero. Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose. Westfield, Massachusetts