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by Kathleen Peterson
Changing your interpretations can change your perspective on experiences and consequently your outcomes. When juggling a multitude of priorities, shifting your interpretation from overwhelm to “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” alters how you perceive that experience. Consider your time-consumption activities as cycles or maybe spinning plates that you’re fully skilled at keeping spinning in the air. (What does that look like? Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhoos1oY404)
There is a saying that “The only constant is change!” but for most of us, life occurs as though there are several repetitive tasks and activities that make us feel like they are the “constant” part or our life. Constant cycles apply to most everyone… the spouse/children/extended family cycle, the spiritual/religious/community cycle, the daily-duties-of-life cycle (like laundry, cleaning, groceries, cooking, lawn care, personal hygiene, eating, etc.), the hobbies/sports/pastimes cycle. And, of course, there is a job/career/business/vocation cycle too. Don’t forget the fun/creative cycle!
There are also temporary cycles that are more time consuming while we are immersed in them but they eventually become a part of our normal routine (Constant Cycle) or they morph into something else…
Marriage – Merging your life with another person is challenging and thrilling at the same time! If you’ve chosen well, you have a great friend and confidant who “has your back,” the dynamics are diverse enough to create a polarity and yet similar enough to cause a sense of completion and partnership. The sex is delicious and occurs at a pace that thrills you both. And, your basic philosophy allows you to feel like your growing both individually and as a couple.
Children – Who knew that this could be so challenging and rewarding too? This is the first glimpse of heavenly bliss at the most simple and complex level! Did you really just create this amazing life together? WOW! And then the real fun/challenge begins…
Nursing someone who is ill or injured – Like raising children, there is nothing more rewarding or exhausting than taking care of someone who needs us. You have to add in time to meet their needs and would never think of NOT taking care of your loved one. Yet, part of your brain may scream, “What about me?!!!” Remember to build in time to take care of your own needs, so you do not create your own illness from the exhaustion of trying to live both your life and theirs! There are caretakers at every price point to help you, if you need it. In this case, you might want to ask the people who love you to tell you if they see you floundering because you are not likely to see it yourself. You will just continue to do what needs to be done!
Recovery from your own illness or injury makes you appreciate the health you had previously experienced and long for its speedy return! Take it gently and work at not resisting your illness. Look for the lesson in the challenge. It’s always there if you look hard and long enough.
Caring for aging parents needing more of our time and energy – “Wow! I had no idea this one would look like it does.” Most of us never consider that there will come a day when we will not be able to get through life with the same level of energy and understand that we did in our youth… even though it’s happening right before our eyes in subtle ways each day. And thinking about taking on our parents’ needs as they get older is a huge undertaking…especially if you never had children yourself. Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way. And the real challenge comes from the parents’ simple, slow relating to the simple parts of life when we are still tethered to the fast-paced business world and our own needs to earn a living and do our jobs well. Just breathe. And remember to be a patient and kind as you can. They gave you life and now it’s time to return the favor by supporting the “winter” of their life.
Moving a relative into your home due to financial needs of theirs or yours and moving those relatives out also creates a new temporary cycle of freedom
Going through a divorce
Starting a new job or business
Moving your home/office is exhausting and can be exhilarating. There is letting go of the space that no longer worked for you and moving into one that does. On the other hand, there is the time-consuming task of letting things go that you really no longer use anyway.
Sending a child off to college is often bitter-sweet. You want your prodigy to launch their life powerfully and joyfully and yet it can feel like a ripping away of some of the best part of you. Or, you’re happy to set this alien free to make it on their own, so the conflicts decrease and you get your life back.
Learning new technology like social media
Going-back-to-school/course of study cycle – “Ahhhh! Beginners mind! What can I absorb and how will I put this new information to good use?” These thoughts blended with, “What was I thinking? This is a ton of work!”… might leave you reeling for a while. Just remember that horrible joke you heard as a child… “How do you eat an elephant?”… One bite at a time! You can do this
And then there are the cyclical cycles each season…
Spring – Some of us can hardly wait to get out of the house and do something fun outdoors, yard work/gardening, golf/tennis/other sports or even spring cleaning with the windows wide open. (Obviously, this is more of an event for those of us who live in a colder climate!).
Summer – It’s time for more fun, outdoor activities and major household projects… picnics, clean out the garage, more sports, paint the trim on the house, power wash the siding, take a stroll through a beautiful park or take the family on a bike ride.
Fall – Whether you’re in school, have children or grandchildren in school or have nothing to do with school at all, there is a palpable going-back-to-school energy in the fall. We put the golf clubs away (only after waiting until the weather really turns cold though), start thinking about our hibernation, pull out winter hobbies and crafts, and start the process of preparing for the holidays.
Winter – The holidays are big cyclical cycles: extra parties, client appreciation, cards, gifts, personal year-end letters. Then of course comes the cold and flu season, planning the New Year… and we begin it all again with the New Year. Often there is a mini respite built into the end of each year but it usually feels relatively short.
We also have those times of life when aging influence our lives in different ways . . .
Infancy – Life is carefree and the best part is, it’s all about ME! I’m cute, I get a lot of attention and if I need anything, all I have to do is cry and someone comes running. Everything is an exploration. Nothing is boring. I might get upset but don’t know that that might mean something, so unless I’m really hurt or ill, I’m over it in a flash!
Youth – Life is still carefree and fun but now we have a few more duties. We may have some frustrations about what our parents make us do but there are no major responsibilities that consume our thoughts. Our biggest worry is whether or not a friend is available to play with us. We get upset over trivial things that seem like they will never end or we’ll never be free of the problem because all there is is NOW, our wants and our desires. We feel we can conquer the world and nothing bad will ever happen to us. We are invincible!
Almost Adult – By this time we realize that a broken nail or a bad haircut will resolve itself in short order. We might angst about grades in our classes and how we don’t fit in with as many friends as easily anymore. We have to be more discerning or flexible about whom we call “friend” but that seems to be helping us build character. Who really wanted to hang out with those “@X!#’s” anyway? Still, vacation time rolls around and we look for the next big adventure. We can drive, so we’re more mobile. We get our first job, so we have money to spend on the almost anything we want! We have more freedom, so we can do more of what WE want. Life is a blast!
Young Adult – Now the rubber meets the road! We still have fun. In fact, we now have the kind of fun that only adults can do and it is SAAAWEEEET! We have responsibilities like paying the bills, figuring out the best career path, taking care of a new baby, learning to live with our significant other or getting along with people at work that we’d rather tell to leave us alone! We make it our business to make sure no one tells us what to do! Oh, except the boss, and that love-of-my-life significant other, and the clients. Hey! I thought I was over this part of life!
Career Ramp Up – We are not yet ready to get that the party is over. We do, however, stop staying out as late and make sure we get enough beauty sleep so we don’t fall asleep at work! If we stay up, it’s with a sick child or cranking out a report for work. We work long hours and the paycheck never seems to be quite enough to stretch. Or, the paycheck is awesome but our personal life flies out the window! That saying about “All work and no play making us boring?” Who are they kidding? We’re SUCCESSFUL! So why do I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel? And, when can I get off?
Mature Adult – Why didn’t anyone tell me that my parents would get old, forget who they were, have bodies that quit working for them and then reverse rolls, so I became their parent? And whose idea was it to have these kids who don’t listen to me, think I only make the money to serve their needs and wants and don’t appreciate what I do give them? Of course, not all children are like this. They also make us proud and launch out on their own with such guts and vigor, it makes our heads spin!
Career “Whined down” – About the same time we figure out that our parents are becoming more like our children, we hit a new wall! “Do I really want this career I’ve spent my whole life creating? Do I want to try to compete with that 20-something who just got hired and thinks they have more answers than I do? I’d rather take a nap!” Wha, wha, wha! This is the first time we look at whether or not the long hours we’re putting in really matter. We start to consider our own mortality and our “bucket list!” “What if I worked this hard and now I won’t get the time to really enjoy the fruits of my labor?
I’ll start to disengage a bit. I’ve earned it! It’s time to work on what I want again. But who am I, if I’m not this successful business person? I won’t be respected. No one will listen to me. They already look past me like I’m a shadow! What the heck, I’m going to go have some fun!”
Senior Citizen – “On the one hand, Argh! I’m the same person with my grandma’s body! What a mean trick! I sure wish I could do what I used to do! I’d like to be a contribution but I just don’t have the energy! I finally know what to do with life and I ache too much to get up and do it? I can only travel to where there are easy-access bathrooms cuz I never know when I HAVE to go! And my pills take up half of my suitcase! And who assigned my kids as the boss of me? If I’d known it would turn out like this, I might not have had them! On the other hand, I can blow them and everyone else off! I’m old, so no one expects a whole lot out of me. I say what I want instead of stuffing it down because I CAN! Of course, I could have spoken up sooner too but I didn’t know I could have! Ah well, a good day is one when I wake up! Let’s just see what today brings.”
One more thing, if you were capable of determining how many cycles you could spin on any given day and still feel like you’re thriving, you could make a formula for inserting additional cycles at a pace that you could more-easily manage.
But life is not that simple. New cycles get added at various times in our lives whether we’re ready or not! Is it any wonder that we feel like we ARE the plates spinning out of control and crashing to the floor sometimes? Feel free to send any comments and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for more about the overlap of cycles and how best to manage overwhelm!
If you need assistance managing your cycles, schedule an exploratory 30-minute sessions to support you. Visit http://meetwithkathleen.com to schedule your session today.
Or, if you’re ready to leap into a bigger expression of yourself and you know that transition would be easier with a coach, I’d be honored to serve you in that manner. Schedule your above session for that purpose or to explore the possibility.
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