Home/Getting It Done Won’t Make You Happier (But This Will)

I’m writing to you from snowy, icy Alabama; it sounds odd just to see those words together, doesn’t it? Our state is not equipped for these conditions. Our kids don’t have snow pants, and our towns don’t have plows.

As such, my plans for the week have been upended, and I’ve spent most of the last three days with our 19 month old toddler, who thinks that putting my underwear on her head is a great use of time.

(She also enjoys reading in the bathtub.)

So, my perspective might be a little wacky. But go with me for a minute here.

I’ve been thinking about the quarterly Online Gathering for private coaching clients that I hosted last week. We were talking about limiting beliefs; to protect privacy, I won’t say what my clients said. But I shared one of my biggest.

It goes like this …

If I just get through X, then everything will be better!
When I check Y off my list, then I will totally calm down.
When Z is over, then I will get my life back.

In psychological literature, this is known as the “arrival fallacy.” Once you accomplish this or that goal, THEN you will be happy.

(Fun fact: I’ve read that Tal Ben-Shahar, one of our Pursue Your Path Series speakers, was the first to introduce this term in his bestselling book Happier.)

Can you relate? Have you ever heard yourself making statements like these? If so, please know that you are not alone. Particularly in the time of COVID, it is SO tempting to pin all of our hopes on the future. To effectively press pause on personal responsibility right now.

That said, it’s also a dangerous game. If you decide that external circumstances must change in order for you to feel better, then you effectively make yourself a victim of those circumstances.

And in the process, you lose time that you can never get back.

This Used to Drive Me Crazy

I’m totally guilty of this, even prior to COVID. For example: It used to secretly drive me crazy when I heard friends and family members regularly give voice to this “I will feel so much better when…” belief.

(This is a great way to identify your own subconscious limiting beliefs – just notice when other people’s belief systems trigger you massively.)

In the past I’d just nod or make sympathetic noises, but deep down I wanted to respond by shouting:

“LISTEN! You’ve been saying things like this for YEARS! But your life will NOT, in fact, magically calm down in a couple of months. That’s not how it goes!

You’ll find a way to start a new project or say yes to something else that will lead to another season of chaos.

And then six months from now you’re going to tell ME the same story, and I don’t want to hear it! The words are empty! Unless YOU change, none of THIS is going to change, either.

It’s not about the stuff “out there.” It’s about this need you have to prove that you can handle all of the craziness, that you can overachieve your way out of it.

And even though you’re exhausted right now, unless you take ownership and grab the wheel, you are going to set yourself up to do the whole darn thing again. Please, please, don’t do that. Please make different choices this time.”

Bring Yourself to Your Own Attention

As you can see, I had some Big Feelings about this. And lately I’ve been realizing ever so clearly that the person I’ve ALWAYS been talking to with that rant is myself.

I want *me* to stop blaming circumstances and start looking inward.
I want *me* to pay attention to my patterns of overwork.
I want *me* to create a feeling of spaciousness, rather than stress.

The Big Feelings were never about “them”, not really. That was just me, trying to bring myself to my own attention.

There was a part of me that argued that I didn’t have time to write to you today, that I should just wait until next week, when presumably we’ll have more childcare and it will feel “better”.

But I’m done falling for the lie of “later is better.” I’m done putting off what matters to me until later.

Life is now. It’s only ever been now.

Unhooking from the Lie of Later

So, dear heart, over to you.

Where have you been putting off your real life until some unspecified “later”?

What dream have you been telling yourself you can’t start working toward now, even though it calls out to you and pulls your sleeves and won’t leave you alone?

Or maybe for you it’s not about doing more – maybe it’s about doing LESS.

What needs have you forgone, even though your spirit begs for them? (Is it sleep, or silence, or the simple pleasure of having more space to transition from one thing to the next …?)

Either way, give yourself some of what you need. Enjoy it, now.

Even if it’s just an hour a week, or 15 minutes a day. It all counts. It all adds up.

Just like every single flake of snow and drop of sleet adds up to us not leaving the house …

You can make a blizzard of beauty in your life, one small choice at a time.

Yours in possibility,
Caroline

***

Leave a comment below and let me know:

What “lie of later” are you rejecting today? What are you going to enjoy, now?

***

PS – Six years ago I started working on a book, the one that would become You Don’t Owe Anyone. I’m thrilled to share that it’s being published by Broadleaf Books and released April 20.

That said, I will be honest with you – there are times when I think that preparing for the book launch is like running a race with a giant boulder strapped to my back. (Ironically, the book’s subtitle is, Free Yourself from the Weight of Expectations.)

It feels crazy to plan a launch in the midst of parenting in a pandemic and running a business and a bunch of other weighty responsibilities I haven’t even written about yet.

But as soon as I typed that metaphor above, I recognized it for the falsehood that it is.

I don’t have a boulder strapped to my back. I have wings.

Why? Because of this community. Because of every single one of YOU who has shown up and said, “I love your work and I’m buying a copy,” and “I’m in for the launch team, let’s do this.”

As I mentioned in last week’s missive, you do NOT need to be on social media or have a “big network” to be on the reader launch team for You Don’t Owe Anyone.

If you’re willing to preorder and write a quick, honest review on launch day, you’re in.

Click here to join the launch team.

You’ll get access to an advance digital copy of the book, and my everlasting gratitude for helping to get the word out.

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Comments

  1. E February 16, 2021 at 9:11 AM - Reply

    My current “lie of later” — When I retire, my life will be wonderful. Until I retire, my life will NOT be wonderful.

    Clearly, I have some work to do on my thinking.

    PS. Love your new website design — it’s beautiful!

    • Caroline McGraw February 16, 2021 at 4:30 PM - Reply

      E, great job identifying that “lie of later”! While I hope your retirement will be wonderful, you can also ask yourself: How can I create a wonderful life now?

      And thank you for your kind words r.e. the new website design as well. 🙂

  2. Ted February 16, 2021 at 10:20 AM - Reply

    Lie of later. Everything is a lie of later when you live by a list of things to that does not include taking care of self. One thing is predicated on accomplishing the previous thing, the next thing can’t be started until the last thing is completed. All things are important and are must do things.

    But are they really? Did you get them done yesterday? If so, congratulations, I did not. Did I wake up today to calamity because they were not done? No. When I’ve done this a few hundred or a few thousand times, and when I listen to smart people like Caroline giving hope and encouragement, I finally realize not ALL things are important, or at least not important enough to stress over and create more burden to ourselves.

    There’s a saying that all things will come in their time. I’m at the point in my life that if they come, they’re important. If they don’t, then they’re not. Realizing this frees me to take time for ME. Caroline has repeatedly told me (us) to put 15 minutes of nothing into our daily routine. When doing that, a lot of “must-do-today” items fall away. What’s left are things meaningful to us in that point in time. And by not having back-to-back to back must-do tasks, I may get more done because I’ve chosen which I want to do, or maybe dump those and do something that pops up.

    So, for me, today, the things “I can’t do later because” have been set aside to read more of You Don’t Owe Anyone. I am now free to do what’s next on a new list of discreet things that really wasn’t built on anything being done before it except in my than my time prioritization.

    • Caroline McGraw February 16, 2021 at 4:33 PM - Reply

      Ted, what a great insight here! I love your point that when we spend time in stillness, doing nothing, a lot of the false urgency we feel falls away. And what’s left is a calmer recognition of what truly matters here and now, in this moment.

      And I’m honored that you decided to spend some of your valuable time today reading You Don’t Owe Anyone!

  3. Dinalynn Rosenbush February 16, 2021 at 10:25 AM - Reply

    What great questions! I am guilty of “getting things done” before I allow myself to enjoy. The problem is that everything is never done! So, an enjoyment break is helpful for focus and energy to do the things I must do. This post is a great reminder, phrased differently, to make me see my tendency yet again, how I derail myself.
    Love your book and website.
    Always amazed how I see myself in your writings. Your honest transparency is so helpful.

    • Caroline McGraw February 16, 2021 at 4:35 PM - Reply

      Dinalynn, I’m so glad that you can see yourself here, and that you’re gleaning so much goodness.

      Another great book that has shaped my thinking about allowing myself to enjoy is Wayne Muller’s A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough. Enjoy!

  4. Ellie February 16, 2021 at 11:43 AM - Reply

    I remember the very first video in the Pursue Your Path Series with Tal and how the ‘arrival fallacy’ shook me to the core! (And also pulled me right in to watch the whole series, time very well spent)
    And since that beautiful warm day last July I have been resisting the fallacy. It was/is often – ‘I will feel happier if I lose some weight, I will feel happier if I wait in this job I don’t love and see what comes, I will be happier once this pandemic is over… ‘ And so on. Bit by bit I have and continue to work on these, I am not the wrong size, my clothes are! I left my job without a new one to go to, I surrendered to the universe and a new job found me which I love (it is still challenging though!)
    Anyway, after a bit of a ramble the point is – I agree wholeheartedly with you!
    Sending much gratitude to you from over the ocean and am looking forward to the book.
    Also – love the new website 🙂

    • Caroline McGraw February 16, 2021 at 4:37 PM - Reply

      Ellie, I love that you remember that first Pursue Your Path Series video, and that our conversation about the arrival fallacy resonated for you! And I’m delighted to hear of the changes you’ve made in your life since then: new clothes, new job, and new attitude. 😉 Thank you for your kind words about the new website too!

  5. Janie Baskin February 16, 2021 at 12:07 PM - Reply

    An arrival fallacy that has been guiding me for far too long is that “I don’t have time to read emails like this one- emails that greatly interest me, but require thinking. Thinking = time. I’m busted. I do have more to do than I can fit into today. However, your operative word “some”, (do some of what is important to me) makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. They hit their target.

    • Caroline McGraw February 16, 2021 at 4:39 PM - Reply

      Janie, I love that you zeroed in on the word “some”. Rather than the all-or-nothing thinking I wrote about last week, we can give ourselves permission for SOME … some reading time, some resting time, some of whatever fills us up.

      Thank you for reading, and for letting me know that this post was on-target for you!

  6. Stefania February 16, 2021 at 2:29 PM - Reply

    This resonates so much to me! I’m going to move from the city to the countryside in the next months, and I’m dreaming of my future life with children and pets and all the nature around and the silence but then I think that if I’m struggling with my life moving far away it’s not like having a magic wand that makes me feel better, I need to continue to work hard on myself and going to therapy to change my life!

    • Caroline McGraw February 16, 2021 at 4:41 PM - Reply

      Stefania, I’m glad to hear that this post came at a good time for you – congratulations on your upcoming move! It’s such a tricky paradox, because on one hand, we can make changes that contribute to (or detract from) our happiness. Yet on the other hand, we tend to bring our discontent with us from place to place unless we work with the root cause. It sounds like you ARE working on the root cause, for which I applaud you. Keep going!

  7. Diana February 17, 2021 at 2:05 AM - Reply

    The question is a tough one for me to answer right now, because I am awaiting the “truth of arrival.” I have had six surgeries in 18 months; 4 were major; the last two were spine surgeries within a month of each other. Add in covid, and my life, my dreams & goals, must be on pause.

    I understand the concept of the arrival fallacy. I heartily agree with what you’ve written today. The question you pose is excellent motivation. I simply wish to give voice to those of us who truly have no choice but to press “pause.” To rest, to heal in some way, to regroup, and to trust the process. A metaphor about music comes to mind about the pauses being as important as the notes in creating a beautiful song.

    • Caroline McGraw February 17, 2021 at 2:11 PM - Reply

      Diane, my heart goes out to you – you have been through so much over the last two years. And I wholeheartedly agree, there are necessary times of pause for all of us, times to do less, rest, and heal. Your comment reminds me that there is beauty in trusting that process – that the choice to trust the process can be, in itself, a way of creating beauty.

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