"I just feel so guilty for being here..."
That is me, basically every day at some point, feeling bad about where I'm not. It might just be that I have an over-developed sense of guilt (I mean I went to Catholic school for 13 years and come from a big Indian family, so the combo turns normal guilt trips into epic guilt pilgrimages) or it might just be that I always feel pulled in too many directions.
When I'm working, I worry that I'm not spending enough time nurturing my personal relationships and when I'm spending time with people I love, I worry that I should be doing something for my businesses and when I'm working diligently on my business, I worry that I'm not investing enough time on my health and fitness.
It's a no-win situation that can drive anyone crazy. And I remember clearly the day a few years ago when I was going down a spiral of "I should be here, no I should be there, no wait, I NEED to be way over there..." and a really wise friend -- who also happens to be a ridiculously successful, seemingly non-stressed business owner (who travels all the time for her business) AND is a mom of three -- gave me the best advice I have gotten for my business and my life in general: Make a decision and then own it.
Now this little bit of advice might look obvious -- and often the best advice is -- but the profundity (now there's a big word for a Wednesday afternoon!) lies precisely in its simplicity. And I can usually tell how profound advice is by how difficult it is for me to implement.
In this case, it's that much harder because there are two parts: 1) making the decision, and 2) owning it. I find that as I've practiced and gotten better at 1 (Get Good at Being Decisive), I've really needed to up my game when it comes to 2.
And damnnnnnnnnnnn, is it hard. Not because I abdicate responsibility for my decisions, but because with every decision I make, there is a tradeoff, and in my heart of hearts I am a recovering maximalist so I hate that I can't have it all, be everywhere, do all the things, and be everything to everyone all at the same time.
Tradeoffs suck, but the grown-up (and homo economicus... gosh, I am being really nerdy today!) in me knows that tradeoffs are inescapable. And it's only with time and practice and catching myself that I've gotten better at accepting that and being truly present wherever I am instead of agonizing about where I'm not.
Because the thing is, once we make a decision, that should mean we have already considered the relevant facts beforehand. That should mean we have done our best to make the best decision with the circumstances we are given. And that should then mean that it is easier to own the decision -- tradeoffs and all -- and move on.
So now, whenever I am traveling to grow my business or spending evenings giving talks or doing some writing on the weekends, I TRY to be fully present and focus on delivering the best talk, having the best meeting, writing the best article I can, and leave everything else where it is. And then when I am with my family (my 2-year-old daughter in particular), I TRY to focus fully on them, on her, on what we are doing in the moment, and leave my phone and all of the things on my never-ending to-accomplish list physically and mentally out of the way. It's not easy, but I try as best I can.
And I firmly believe (know!) that we are not compartmented people, despite what we tell ourselves, and we take everything with us wherever we go. But the key is not to let guilt come there with us too, because it will consume us AND the fun and success we could otherwise be experiencing if we hadn't invited guilt to the party.
I get it. Like I said, I struggle with this on a near-daily basis. And there are no hacks that I've uncovered other than practice. So, the next time you start wishing you were somewhere else or feel guilty about where you are not, remind yourself that you decided to be wherever you are and then practice owning that decision.
It will make being a grown-up, a boss, a business-owner, a leader, a parent, a partner, and a person that much easier AND will be a reminder that choice is a gift we shouldn't always spoil by wishing we had made a different one.