(by the way ‘chasing your dreams’ is a term I have great difficulty using..long story! So I may keep saying ‘goals’ or ‘getting things done’ instead).
This is how it is. You’ll wake up on Saturday so happy you’re done with the crazy week. You finally have some time this weekend to do the things you want –
Work on that new business idea.
Write the book you’ve always wanted.
Become a personal trainer.
But then your mum asks you to drive her to her friend’s house. Sure. Your dad wants you to help fix the leak in the bathroom. Argh. Your daughter has spilled milk on your laptop. Fan-flipping-tastic. Oh and you have to make a house out of pasta for your son’s school project.
Just great. The weekend’s over. You didn’t start any business. You didn’t even manage to switch your laptop on. And you certainly didn’t make it to the gym. How can you call yourself a personal trainer?
If you’re like me and come from a background where we are the ones who look after our parents when they’re older or you’ve created a family of your own, then you may know what this feels like.
And for some of us the responsibility can feel weightier. Perhaps you have unwell family members who are in and out of hospital. Or they need help with simple daily tasks and are completely dependent on you.
We take pride in looking after our parents. We live with our parents till late. We move out and live close enough to stop by on a daily to help them as much as we can. And of course the children are our pride and joy (well, so I am told? You can tell I don’t have kids).
So that’s just how we do.
If only there were more hours in the day.
At times, that’s just our polite way of saying – we wish we could spend a bit more of our day doing the things that work toward our goals instead of all of our caring duties. But we feel bad for even thinking that.
So we tend to get stuck into believing we have these unavoidable circumstances like elderly parents, children and responsibilities for the people we love and care about that stop us from achieving our goals.
We surrender to these ‘circumstances’ because “how dare we choose between family and our own goals?” Or worse, what will people think of me if I choose to work toward my wants? (If you worry about what people think then please read this).
But it shouldn’t be a toss between the two.
The question was never about which is more important.
The question is how the hell are you going to go after what you want while rocking your responsibilities too?
This is how:
1. Manage your Mindset
There will never ever be a time when you don’t have some responsibilities that will ‘get in the way’. There will always be something. If it isn’t your parents or children then there will something else that will take your time and you’ll blame it on that for not having the time for yourself to dedicate to your goals.
You’re choosing the easy way out – you would rather be able to use the excuse of caring for your family to explain why you haven’t achieved your goals than to admit that you’re the reason.
Ouch. Sorry I know that one hurt because I feel it when I tell myself that every day.
We would rather have someone or something to blame, even if it’s without resentment (as we are happy to care for them), than to be honest and say -‘you know what it’s me, I’m the reason it hasn’t happened yet’.
When you’ve already decided that this ‘circumstance’ is going to limit you, then that’s exactly what you’ll get. You’ve surrendered. You’ve given in. Your mind won’t be able to help you find solutions if you aren’t even looking.
Decide that it is possible, even when your family takes up most of your free time. Change your outlook then just watch how you suddenly start to find pockets of time here and there to work toward your goals.
2. Manage your Priorities
If you don’t give your family much time and care, you would be filled with guilt. But if you sway too far in caring for them, your goals take a backseat and you would feel down and unfulfilled.
They are both your priorities but at times one takes precedence over the other.
When your child is unwell, you will spend more time getting her better and maybe you won’t do any work at all.
When your father is able to manage his own tasks for a bit, you can take the opportunity to work faster than your usual pace to make up for when you had to be at his side for a few days.
Yes, progression will be slower than the ideal but realistically with your responsibilities, this is the best way to do both.
Once you’ve found your rhythm you’ll be surprised how much more you can achieve in the little time you have.
Know your parents’/kids’ needs and wants, be honest about what you are able to give. Note down which of these are needed daily, weekly, monthly etc.
Then note which of these may be worth getting help from family, friends, carers, nannies. Can you afford to pay for any extra help, even if only once in a while?
If so, do it. Pay for some help at specific times that work best for you and times of the day or week where you’d be able to maximise it too.
3. Manage your Time
Don’t just hope you’ll get a free minute to work. Plan for it.
Get serious about your tasks for each day – your day job, your chores, your responsibilities. Find any possible blocks of time that you can use toward your goals.
Even if it’s five minutes. Anything is better than zero!
Ideally it would be great if we could dedicate time for one task alone, it makes it easier and less stressful.
For some tasks that’s the only way they should be done (e.g. getting your kids to bed earlier means dedicated uninterrupted hours to write, and that’s more valuable than 5 minutes crammed in between errands).
But for smaller, less taxing jobs then you can multitask to squeeze everything you can out of each hour.
Sometimes I write while I eat. I help my parents with grocery shopping while listening to an audiobook. I dictate emails while I drive to work. I post blogs online while one hand unloads the dishwasher and my eyes are on the oven.
I also recommend not overdoing it and allowing a time-out for when you really don’t want to work on anything. And you should never feel bad about it because you’re doing the best you can with all your responsibilities and commitments.
Make your time work for you by first knowing where it goes and how it can be planned more efficiently.
ONE – When you’re working toward the things you’re always thinking and dreaming about, you are filling your own energy bank.
It makes you feel good, confident and enthusiastic. This positive energy is what will help you be a better parent to your children and a better child to your parents. Doing things for yourself is directly helping them too.
TWO – If you ever feel resentful for not being able to have more time for you and to achieve your goals – then remember that caring for your parents and children is hugely rewarded by God.
Know that you are being elevated for all that you give. Even though you aren’t where you hope to be yet in achieving your goals and dream lifestyle, perhaps this is exactly where you are supposed to be.
You are always seen by Allah (swt) and you will be blessed with the best successes in this life and the next for all your continuous efforts. Ameen.
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All that you want is already within you. Reflect, know yourself and create the best version of you and the life that you want.