In Meg Meeker, M.D.'s book, 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Habit #8 -- Find Ways to Live Simply -- is probably my favorite chapter so far. Admittedly, I was growing weary of reading and reporting on this book and it's "habits," but now I feel like I've bonded with the author.
She spends the first few pages of the chapter talking about how our lives are complicated through many ways, including too much stimulus, too many activities, and ridiculous expectations based on faulty beliefs. I agree with her totally.
Dr. Meeker explains that all of this busyness keeps us in fight-or-flight mode from the level of performance anxiety that we mothers (women in general, I think) feel. We are always pushing to do more, be more, and do it perfectly (or at least without losing our minds or damaging our kids in the process).
A symptom of this great problem -- living complicated lives -- is lack of peace. This manifests as physical exhaustion, coupled with thoughts that we never do enough.
I did the exercise that she suggested on page 159 and it was wonderful. She asks you to make a list of all that you expect of yourself, no holds barred. Then, make a list of your top ten goals for yourself, in order of priority with #1 being the most important to you. Next, she says to read over your expectations list several times (which was an eye opener for me) and then--ta-da!--rip it up and throw it away or burn it!
After banishing the expectations, you are to cross off everything from your goals list except the top three items (this is why it is important to make the top three your most important goals). Then, with the top three goals left, make a decision to only focus on those three for the next six months to a year.
What? Not work on anything else?
I realize that my top three goals encompass all that is important to me. So, because I have felt chronically tired from the weight of unmet expectations for myself (and I'm tired of not sleeping at night for worrying about all that I didn't get to that day or need to face the next day), I am prayerfully going to follow her advice and ask God for wisdom to only work on the top three goals.
Her habits she suggests for making your life simpler are:
1. Identify and really live your priorities (hence the "top three goals" exercise).
2. Change the way you talk -- "What we say affects the way we think, and the way we think affects the way we behave. Therefore, if we train the way we talk, we can actually change the way we feel and act" (Meeker 171, emphasis mine).
3. Loosen your grip -- Mostly self-explanatory. Stop trying to control everything and let God have control. That's not exactly how Dr. Meeker put it, but that's what I got out of it. My anxiety level takes a major dip when I practice Philippians 4:6-7:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."