Where Does Your Shadow Land

Now that summer is officially over – (I’m counting Labor Day and not the calendar) I’m starting to settle into the fact that we are moving into fall.

I love living someplace where the seasons change, and while summer is by far my favorite season – fall comes in a close second.

Fall is all about change. It’s about putting away the lawn mower and the gardening tools. It’s about parking the boat and the camping gear and starting to move inside.

I also take the change during fall to “move inside” personally and evaluate what is going on inside of me. It just feels like the time to do that.

I have come to realize as I age that balance doesnt always mean dividing my time equally between multiple worthy endeavors, but instead learning how to focus on what is most important in my life at that one moment – the current moment.

A while back I read an interview with Jennifer Garner when in reference to her ex Ben AFfleck, she said “when his sun shines on you, you feel it. But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.”

Think about that ….. when our sun is shining on one area there will always be a shadow in another area of our lives.  As women we have this idea that we are supposed to be able to do it all, that we should have it all together all the time, and that if we aren’t somehow managing to do all the things we want to be doing or think we should be doing at any given time we are failing. Should we not shine our light at all to avoid the shadow that by nature falls opposite of the sun?

The answer is a resounding NO! We were born to shine even while doing so means that from time to time you will be ignoring or at least paying less attention to other areas of your life for a short time.

5 Tips to Minimize the “Shadow” Guilt

Get Crystal Clear on Your Priorities

The first tip may be obvious but I don’t think we pay close enough attention to it.  If your goals are in line with your priorities it helps to minimize your shadow guilt because you are doing everything possible to make sure that those things that are most important to you get at least some of your time on a daily basis.

Hal Elrod tells a story in his book The Miracle Equation about the life changing experience of getting cancer and realizing that while he always said his top priority was his family – he came to the stark realization by where he spent his time that it was actually his work and serving others.

So what did he do? He made minor changes to his daily schedule. He got up 3o minutes early to go in a spend time before school with each on of his children. He decided twice a week to get off an hour early (work longer on the other days) so he could go and pick his kids up from school. He made sure that every Friday was date night and Sat was all about the family.

So while there were some changes – they really mostly happened in his head. He made sure that he was living in alignment with his priorities and it literally cost hm little in the way of time, and once the new practice became a routine it cost hm little in way of focus.

And what was the payoff? Only time will tell as his kiddos are still young but my guess is the payoff will be amazing – and the immediate benefits are less guilt, living in alignment with his priorities when leads to more joy and better family relations. No downside that I can see.

Recognize there are Seasons

Tip 2 is all about seasons. Living in north America you learn quickly the importance of seasons and what you can expect. You know that in the winter it will be cold. You know that in the summer you are going to be able to spend time outside much more comfortably.

You know that Spring follows the hard cold nights of winter – even if it’s late or short.

Why then is it so hard for us to accept that we also have different seasons? Why is it that we can’t recognize that maybe right now we need to step back and wait? Or maybe it’s time to jump in. Or maybe right now it’s time to let the full radiance of the sun shine on you and through you without any guilt of not being your grandkids day care provider or keeping the house spotless.

Focusing on the Essential Few

In his ground breaking book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown said “The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

So focusing on the essential few things in your life is what really matter.

You need to ask yourself – “What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and “What am I particularly talented at?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?” and then do that! Figuring out why you were sent here and what you were sent to accomplish takes time, effort and eliminating the non essentials.

Just Say NO

Which gets me to my next point – the need to say no. In the book Essentialism Greg points out that every time, without exception, that we say yes to something it means we are saying no to something else.

A simple example would be that by saying yes to heading up the church carnival you are saying no to any possible number of things – could be a grand child’s ball game, dinner with friends, babysitting a sick grandchild or other pursuits.

The above option is good, but is it the best? It may be but by doing the other steps and being clear on your priorities you will be sure. The importance of learning to say NO so that you are free to say yes to opportunities you create for yourself cannot be over emphasized.

I love a quote by Dallin H Oaks  “Plan specifically so you can implement flexibly.” If you are clear on where you are going and what you want it is easy to adjust at a moments notice without falling prey to never reaching the final destination you are dreaming of.

Sometimes when life really gets out of wack – I think balance is just knowing where the balls land so that you can pick them up again later, and that’s ok sometimes too.