January 6, 2020

A Weird, Counterintuitive Life Advice Elizabeth Gilbert Received When She Was Struggling To Become a Writer and How You Can Benefit From it

Why You Should Say No To Things You Want

Have you ever had so many interests and to-do things in your life that you can hardly find time to do them all?

While I am NOT a person with too many interests or hobbies, there are quite a few things that I like to do:

  • Improve my finances
  • Become a better husband and father
  • Lose weight
  • Learn to cook and eat healthy
  • Declutter and organize
  • Make short films
  • Play cricket
  • Learn magic
  • Learn meditation
  • Start a business

And sometimes, crazily enough, I simultaneously try to work on all of them and not surprisingly feel overwhelmed and burned out.

Then I fall into a pattern of negative self-talk and defeatist thinking chiding myself for not being good enough to live up to my standards leaving me frustrated, angry and bitter.

Recently I read a book Choose Wonder Over Worry by Amber Rae and in the Chapter: I Don't Have Enough Time, Amber shares an insightful life advice Elizabeth Gilbert received from a wise, old woman. 

Here's an excerpt from the book Choose Wonder Over Worry. Copyright © 2018 by Amber Rae and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Publishing Group.

Amber Rae

Amber ​Rae

I went to a workshop led by Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell. It was appropriately timed because it was a moment in my life when I was trying to stuff that extra pile into my suitcase.

And because I was trying to fit so much inside, I was kind of starting a podcast, and kind of creating a journal product, and kind of speaking all over the world, and kind of doing art installations, and kind of working with individuals and brands, and kind of writing- but only when I felt inspired.

I was doing so many things and going so many places and making progress on it all. But I was doing it in a way that made me feel like my head was constantly spinning. Since I was skimming the surface of so many projects all at the same time, I wasn't experiencing the kind of depth that I wanted.

But I didn't know that when I arrived at the workshop. I was sitting there, hoping Liz could help me figure out how to do it all and do it well. That's when a woman in the audience asked, "How do you make time for everything that's important?"

Yeah! I thought. How do I make time for it all? Tell me your secret, Liz!

That's when Liz told us about the time in her life when she was struggling to become a writer. She was working a few jobs, barely making ends meet and rarely having the time and energy to write. When she shared her predicament with a wise older woman, that woman said, "What are you willing to give up, in order to have the life you keep saying that you want?"

Liz said, "You're right- I really need to start learning how to say no to things that I don't want to do."

The wise woman corrected her: "No, it's much harder than that. You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life, and you don't have time and energy for everything."

You need to learn how to start saying no to things you DO want.

Great advice!

And I have slowly realized that I too cannot work on all aspects of my life at the same time in a deep, meaningful manner.

I need to let go of some things and take time to reconsider my priorities in life.

Even though I love playing cricket, want to learn magic and make short films, they can at best be hobbies that I can indulge in every now and then but NOT serious ventures that I can afford to spend significant time on to master the craft.

After becoming a dad, my time has become more limited and as I age into my 40s, I have decided to focus more on my health and relationships than other aspects of my life because they have the biggest impact on my happiness and well-being.

In addition, I have also made a conscious decision to pay more attention to the process and enjoy the journey rather than wait to be happy for a specific outcome or event.

Mind Mastery Lab

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