When the Head and the Heart Won’t Agree

when the head and the heart don't agreeWhen DO they agree?

The head…rooted in fear, insecurity, comparison, and ambition. 

You can change the world. You can achieve so much more. You’ve done it before. You can do it again. You just need to wake up earlier, work a little harder, hack your time better, and stay up later.

If you want it badly enough, you will do anything. Are you in a mid-life crisis before the age 40? Get your butt out of that frilly bath and get to work!

And this head of mine is not alone. This message seems to be everywhere. 

This little audio gets shared in class by a yoga teacher I really do love every so often and every time it gets the head all whipped into a frothy frenzy of ambition:

 

But, before class is over, I’m back to my current quandary…

That this go-after-your-dreams-ambition treadmill is a problem for some of us.

I love this type of motivational stuff. I’ve got at least 50 rah-rah self-help books that get me all fired up.

But I think some of us (me) can run with that mentality a little too far for the wrong reasons and end up sprinting for a really long time before we realize we’re pretty much in the same place and sacrificed a lot in the process.


 

The heart…reveling in the present moment and living as if life were over tomorrow.

You are so fortunate.

You missed out on so much chasing ambitious goals. What did it get you? Does anyone even remember your accomplishments? Was the trade worth it? Perhaps it could be if you used the freedom it got you to live now. Each and every minute is up to you. Just be here in real life, real memories, real relationships.

Be present with the extraordinary small moments of your children transforming, of tweaking that muffin recipe and taking that test bite from the first batch, of reading a great book in the bath and sipping a glass of red. 

Anyone else resonate with BOTH of these conflicting messages?

 

“You can’t live at all, unless you can live fully now.”

Again…I eat this stuff up. But I can’t seem to appease both.


 

I was forced out of my chest thumping ambition melee into a moment-by-moment existence when confronted with one of those inevitable life crises a couple years ago.

In the aftermath of that turmoil, I indulged in every fantastic spontaneous urge.

I would wake up on a Tuesday, feel like a road trip, and head out for three days a few hours later. I booked travel to places I’d always wanted to go with little to no planning. I woke up when my eyes opened and went to bed when they felt heavy. I took lots of bubble baths.

Sold. 

I have no regrets from that year of indulgence. I worked just enough. I paid the bills. And I created more enduring memories and experiences in 12 months than I had for maybe the prior 12 years.

But, I still have these pesky ambitions.

Dreams that hypothetically bring the head and the heart together; projects that fulfill me and better the world, but also have the potential to turn into work that I love, so that I can stop doing work that I sorta like.

There’s not a huge margin of motivation there – I am already quite fortunate to do work that challenges me every day from anywhere I want. So this sacrifice of many, many minutes that could be spent with my nose in a book amidst lavender bubbles is a difficult decision every single day.

Is it possible to live in the indulgent moment AND invest time in those bigger dreams and creating a better future?

Will that future actually be better in any meaningful way?

If we consider what we will be proud of in the last moments of life, do we follow the heart a whole lot more than the head?

Now that the crisis year is long-over, when I live in the bubbly moment, I am plagued by guilt for not having invested that time in an ambitious project.

When I spend an entire day working on an ambitious project, my spoiled heart demands extra bubble baths for a week and a book wishlist shopping spree to make up for it.

My guilt-free moment-living these days occurs when I simply exist with my children – shoot them with nerf bullets, talk, and stare into their big brown eyes in wonder at the strangeness of reproduction and raising humans.

When I am with loved ones, I am present – sans guilt. I see my loved ones as a priority. But when I am being present with just myself: this is selfish and wasteful.

I’ve drilled a few limiting beliefs into my own head: 

  1. I am time poor and must allocate every free minute to these ambitious dreams or they will never amount to anything.
  2. Self-care is not a priority right now as it produces no measurable progress toward my ambitions.

Obviously, self-care is essential to giving and creating. Reading is the pursuit of knowledge and art. Ergo: read-a-thon bubble baths are worthy investments of time that should appease the head and the heart. I’m even multi-tasking!

My head, and maybe yours too, seems to suppress that logic, because that bath doesn’t directly pay the bills or fulfill a purpose. Same with travel, road trips, yoga…

A friend shares my dilemma and was brought to tears the other night with the struggle of feeling as though she should do more AND be in the present more.

Should really needs to be nixed from our vocabulary.

I am a human being, not a human doing.

I’m not sure who uttered it first, but I have been pondering this one, wondering what the value of a minute of being is to me; what my price is to exchange it for doing.

When my children are home, the price is quite high. I’ve learned to make very few commitments to my clients that could require me to sacrifice time with my kids, because these days, I will blow off that commitment and apologize later.

I will never regret disappointing a client. I will always regret the missed opportunity to build a lego fortress with my son or help my daughter with her blog.

But I also have a lot of minutes that can’t be invested with my children. What is the cost of sacrificing those minutes? Minutes when I could be exploring, writing, volunteering, taking said baths, or simply walking in wifi-free nature?

The price of those minutes is still high.

The options for any given minute are limitless. And yet, we have so few minutes to go around that if we don’t reflect on what’s truly important to us – both head and heart – to find where we draw that line on a day to day basis, we will likely squander the minutes away in exchange for regret.

Often, we end up conflicted, the battle between the shoulds robbing us from being fully present and committed to any one action.

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