“I make it really hard for myself to win.”

workshop worksheets | kourtney thomas

I recently hosted a workshop, and it turned out to be so, so great. It’s an awesome combination of group brainstorming and discussion, paired questions and discussion, and individual reflection. Because we’re covering some deeper, slightly uncomfortable, and more layered material, the blend was a fantastic way to do that without feeling completely overwhelmed by one of those options.

In going through several activities, learning about a lot of varied perspectives, and being really actively engaged in listening to each other, the group got to a point of openness and vulnerability really quickly. That’s a good thing, but can be a little tough in the moment, which is why I added in the individual worksheet time to get back in touch with what was really going on for participants individually, in the moment. Reconnect with their selves more fully before just pressing on with more material.

Part of the worksheet I used in the first week centers around listing things you really, truly enjoy doing, and then asking yourself if you’re happy when you do these things, and whether that “counts” for something.

It’s an interesting concept, right? Like, what do you mean, “What do I truly enjoy doing?” I like reading! And knitting! And puzzles! And of course it makes me happy!” But you’d be surprised how easy it is to say that, thinking you know exactly what’s going on. And then you take an extra minute and an extra question to dig into it, realizing quickly that you either don’t really know what you truly enjoy, you don’t do the things you enjoy regularly – possibly at all, or you don’t think it matters that they make you happy – ie: they’re not worth doing.

Uh huh. Really. It’s upsetting, isn’t it?

You know that I am deeply in love with reading. Specifically, reading fiction. So when one of the group participants shared her takeaways from the activity, I was particularly affected. But aside from that, it was an excellent display of exactly what I was trying to get to the heart of.

She began to explain that she loves reading, it’s just one of her favorite hobbies, a way to relax that she really enjoys. She then went on to say that as soon as she does start reading a book for fun, she immediately starts to feel guilty. She should be doing something else, she should be exercising, she should be cleaning or working. Or at the very least, she should be reading something “productive” or learning-focused. And all of that contributed to the fact that she then didn’t do the thing she enjoys – reading for fun.

I was nodding away the entire time, knowing exactly what was coming, as she summarized: “I realized, I make it really hard for myself to win.”

Yeah.

Can you identify with that? Honestly. I bet you can if you think for even a second about how your life looks right now.

There are plenty of places where I make it hard for myself to win. I set up an elaborate goal or idea, something exciting and aspirational, but still doable…but just broad enough to make it really easy to feel like I’m not getting there, or getting there enough. Or, I just straight up change my standards all the time, making it impossible to have any wins, anytime.

It’s OK if I only post on social media a few times a week, because I have a life! -> BUT I HAVE TO POST EVERY SINGLE DAY IN ORDER TO BE DOING IT RIGHT!

It’s OK if I go for a walk outside because it’s finally sunny! -> BUT I CAN’T TAKE AN HOUR OFF OF WORK OR I’M JUST A LAZY WASTE OF SPACE WHO’S TOTALLY NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE WORLD!

It’s OK if I’m feeling good and just having fun in the gym, even if I’m not working toward a specific goal! -> BUT WHY COULDN’T I GET THAT EXTRA REP THIS WEEK!?!

It’s OK that I’m eating by the 80/20 rule, because I feel great! -> BUT OMG WE’RE GOING ON VACATION AND I HAVE TO WEAR A BIKINI!

You can see how this can actually be pretty common. It’s easy to think you have stuff handled and then realize you’re setting yourself up for struggles. I mean, really, we’re living in a world where everything is hyper-judged, every minute of the day – from career, to personal life and perceived “milestones,” to parenting, to freaking reading books. You have to do things this way – no! this way! – and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong, or it’s not worth doing, or you’re totally failing at life and not a valuable human. And oh by the way, “just be yourself!” Where does it end?

And the answer is, it ends exactly where you draw the line.

You set the standards that determine the wins. You get to decide what’s enjoyable for you. You get to decide what contributes to your happiness. And you are the only one who has the power to say that your happiness has meaning.

(Well, I’m basically reminding you that your happiness does have meaning, regardless. But you get the picture.)

I firmly believe that exploring and learning and knowing and having things that you enjoy in life is paramount to living your Big Life. It’s kind of one of those things, like, do you want to look back and say to yourself 20 years from now, “Wow, I couldn’t even read my Harry Potter without feeling guilty. What was I doing with myself for all those years? I felt obligated to live by everyone else’s rules and neglected all the things I really enjoyed and loved to do.” It’s important to have things you enjoy, it’s important to prioritize them, and it’s even more important that you believe they’re important – that you are important.

So, as I sign off to finish up my next hilariously funny fiction book, I encourage you to either write down for yourself, or hit the comments below and tell me, what do you enjoy? What are your hobbies? Are you happy when you do these things? Does that count for something?

And then, go do that thing. Today.


P.S. Don’t write this off so easily. In Week 2, we revisited the idea, and even after doing the activity and having this meaningful discussion, not a single person had taken the time to do something they enjoy during the week. It’s a challenge, and I’m challenging you to take it on. Make sure to sign up for weekly emails for extra support on the journey.

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