Pressure to be Productive: You're a Person, Not a Project (And That's a Beautiful Thing)


I often treat my life as if it were a project. I map out goals, I plan for trips. I try to schedule my time as effectively as possible. This isn't in and of itself a negative thing; I'm a doer, with a desire to take in as much as I can. I've been able to realize, and to nurture, many of my dreams precisely because I work hard.

However, this approach can quickly turn toxic.

I've spent the last few days in a bit of a funk. The pressure to constantly do has made me judge myself harshly for my lack of concrete plans once my internship wraps up. Every time I watch T.V. instead of read or write, I feel guilty. Every time I eat too much cheese or have several bowls of cereal after hot yoga, I'm disappointed in myself for having ruined my good "score." Every time I see photos of my friends traveling abroad, I feel frustrated to be living in my childhood home.

And then I remember that the unknown is delicious; that not knowing what will come next is scary and exciting and freeing.

I remember that it's okay to relax. That I write and read in some capacity every day, and if I can't sit down and produce a manuscript in an evening (because I'm not a ROBOT) that's more than alright.

I remember that I love cheese.

I remember that I have had some crazy adventures in my life and that there will be more to come in good time. I remember how lucky I am to have a home I can return to, and a family who loves me, and an evergreen tree in my backyard.

There is so much to be gained by being a doer and so much to be lost when we confine ourselves to the pressure of being perpetually productive. Life is short and sweet and precious. But when we come at it from a desperate scramble to get epic shit done (or whatever) we turn being present into a project. And we're just people. Even if all you did in your life was breathe and eat and sleep and love those around you, you would have accomplished a whole lot.

Finding a balance between making ourselves available to what comes our way and actively taking steps to reach our goals is a practice we can bring into our lives through self-love, compassion, meditation, and forgiveness. Whatever has happened, already has happened (which is to say, bemoaning the two hours lost to an infinite trip to the mall to get your laptop fixed is not worth the grief). Whatever is going to happen, hasn't happened yet.

When you find yourself getting in a twist over being the BEST PERSON POSSIBLE ALL THE TIME, reflect on what truly matters most. Maybe you will chose to recite a mantra--I like to tell myself I am "a zen ice cream cookie sandwich" because (1) it makes me smile and (2) I love ice cream cookie sandwiches. Maybe you will choose to talk to a friend about whatever feelings are flowing through you. Maybe you will just keep on doing whatever it was you were doing.

You're not a project with a timeline and a corresponding to-do list. You're a person, irresistibly flawed and indisputably worthy. And that's a beautiful thing.