It almost feels taboo in my line of work to say that. But I have come to believe that the expectation that you can have it all if you just think positively enough, or work hard enough, or follow the ‘right’ strategy, do the ‘right thing’, etc. can actually be harmful.
That’s because, when we can’t quite fulfill that expectation, no matter how hard we try – or how closely we follow the rules, we can feel like failures.
This question was recently asked in an online group that I follow:
Do you think you can have it all? Beauty, fortune, love, career, family…in other words the life of your dreams? Yes or No?
Every person responded, YES.
I sat back feeling a pit in my stomach, declining to respond while I processed the question more. I know a lot of people who are exhausted from chasing “it all”, trying to achieve an image of perfection.
Because isn’t that the underlying assumption? That when we have it all, life will be perfect and we’ll be happy.
When women were taught to believe that we could be and do anything, did it naturally follow that we could “have it all”? At the same time? Without compromise? Is that really possible for anyone? Is that totally in our control? Personally, I don’t think so.
What does it really mean to have it all?
The dream house, dream career/business, dream income, dream children, dream marriage, dream body, dream car, dream getaway, dream wardrobe, perfect health…?
What if having it all could be thought of differently? As a separation between the form (the actual physical ‘thing’ that you dream of) and the essence (the ultimate feeling or experience that you desire).
That would feel like less pressure to me because there’s a sense of more control over achieving essence – it’s more of an inside job – and there is more than one form that it could take.
- Form: I can imagine living in my oceanfront dream house, falling asleep to the sound of waves every night and drinking my morning coffee in my office overlooking the ocean and mountains. I’m always watching for the “right one” to show up in my preferred neighbourhood.
- Essence: I have realized that what I truly want is more simplicity, peacefulness, quality, meaning.
- Having it all: That dream house is going to require a significant financial commitment. Its location will require that we purchase a second vehicle which will require financing. Adding that to the expense of the large mortgage and maintenance costs, I will need to earn more money to afford it. At least initially, that will require that I work more. Plus, my daughter will no longer be able to walk home from school (and no access to public transit there).
- Added pressure: The added pressure to make more money feels the opposite of peacefulness to me. The loss of my daughter’s independence feels like the opposite of simplicity to me.
- Decision: The choice to pursue having it all via purchasing the dream house is the choice to compromise the essence of simplicity and peacefulness that I deeply desire. In the end, is it worth it to me? Is it just a matter of timing? How else can I achieve the essence I seek?
This is simplified. And I could get caught up in my thoughts for days processing through various what-if scenarios to try to find a solution to have it all – both form and essence. I could just “put it out there for the universe” and not worry about how it becomes a reality for me, watching for synchronicity. I could win the lottery or receive a lot of money some other way – it is possible. And in the meantime, rather than pinning my happiness on living in that house, I could find ways to experience the essence now.
In my experience, there is always a choice to be made. And every choice has a consequence.
So I wonder, does the goal of “having it all” create pressure and negative stress for you and make you question your self-worth? If so, you have the right to say NO, and find another way to go about experiencing an inspiring and meaningful life filled with possibility – focused more on essence – that you feel happy with – grateful for.
Same happy ending, yet different approach.
If you silence the voices and expectations around you, and you think about the items that would have shown up on your “have it all” list, what is it that you’re really searching for (the deeper essence) that are ingredients for YOUR happier and more satisfying life?
When you get quiet and ask this question, your inner wisdom will answer. It will be the deeper voice for “having it all”. And you’ll know what’s right for you to do (or not do) next.