The Surprising Power of Lowering the Bar

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None of us are capable of doing All Of The Things all at once. With lives that are filled with obligations and opportunities, It’s up to us to determine where we want to invest our limited time, energy, and resources. Lowering the bar on purpose (as opposed to dropping the ball by accident) can feel both liberating and empowering.

I believe in setting and achieving goals, showing up fully for the people I love, and living up to my fullest potential. I have very high standards for myself, but I also believe that lowering the bar on certain activities can be a compassionate and productive form of self-care and a way to free up energy for more important pursuits.

Lowering the barHere are some areas where I’ve decided to intentionally lower the bar in my own life:

Home Cooked Meals

I’m lucky enough to have married a man who truly loves cooking, but sometimes he’s busy or tired or out of town and I’m in charge of family dinner. I don’t love cooking or meal planning and I used to get incredibly stressed out about this task, but I’ve decided that life is too short to fret about dinner, so I just focus on making it as easy as possible. Sometimes I boil fresh pasta and top it with loads of parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Sometimes we’ll do “breakfast for dinner” or improvise a picnic supper. Sometimes I just order a pizza. Kids are happy and I get to reroute that effort elsewhere.

Folding Laundry

Surprise! I don’t take tremendous pride in perfectly folding my, or anyone else’s, clothes into neat little packages. I’ve put my girls in charge of putting away their own laundry (and have accepted that sometimes that means their clothes will be shoved into their dressers in twisted little balls). If they want to go to school in wrinkled clothes, it’s fine by me. Ditto for the bed linens, which I simply plop into bins so our linen closet looks tidy (just don’t look too closely at the fold on the fitted sheets which, I will never ever master).

Keeping Plants Alive

My family has a special talent: We unintentionally kill nearly all plants. We’ve tried lovingly potting baby tomatoes and strawberries and little clusters of basil. We tried to grow a pear tree. We’ve picked out pale pink flowers to spruce up our porch. All of these plants have one thing in common. They’ve died almost instantly. Instead of beating myself up I’ve decided to acknowledge that I don’t care much for gardening, and should probably stop planting things. We now have just a handful of very, very drought-tolerant potted olive trees scattered across our patio, and that works just fine for us.

Refrigerator Organization

Confession: Even though I have the skill of artfully arranging a color-coded and magazine worthy refrigerator, I’ve decided that the “fridge arts” just aren’t how I want to invest my time. On the rare occasions where I have taken the time to meticulously style our family fridge, I’ll return hours later to find a whole host of items –  a giant bowl of raw cookie dough, a whole marinating chicken, a pitcher of homemade lemonade – shoved in haphazardly. My family loves to cook and bake and snack and eat and it’s fine that most of the time our fridge is more functional than photo worthy.

I choose to lower the bar on laundry, cooking, and organizing my fridge not because I’m lazy, but because these things don’t align with my current goals, values, and priorities. I choose not to cast judgment on my worth as a wife, or a mother, when I order takeout or let my kids walk around in wrinkled clothes because I know that they feel loved and happy and safe and that’s what really matters to me. The more we can make intentional decisions about where we want to place our time, energy, and resources (and conversely where we don’t) the better.

Where can you lower the bar and create more spaciousness and ease in your life?

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson 

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