Someone once said to me that guilt is the most useless of human emotions. And I believe them to be right.
Rationally, I believe they were right when they argued that guilt is really just feeling bad about something (usually in the past), but not really doing anything about it. And therefore not moving forward.
And rationally, I can agree that that’s a pretty useless way to spend our time.
But as any of us who are business owners know (and from what I’m told, all you mom’s out there also know a thing or two about this) our form of guilt tends to look a lot more like this: feeling guilty for not doing more right now, right this very second, for our business, for our clients, for our kids, and being driven into a frenzied panic to do something, Lord help us anything, to stop feeling that way. Until we guiltily force ourselves into working all the time and ruining whatever little “us” time we do have.
And the thing is, I also believe that’s a pretty useless way to spend our time. Rationally. But irrationally, emotionally, humanly…..I still allow myself to feel that guilt all the time.
See when we first start our businesses, the first stage we go through (after that “holy crap, how am I gonna do this?” stage) is the quiet stage. The phone’s not ringing stage. The how will I ever get my name out there, let alone book a client who’s not already my first cousin and I’m doing it for free stage. And…it’s scary. So when stage two-the I’m super, super busy all the time and there aren’t enough hours in the day stage- rolls around, we can’t help but feeling really happy about it. No I’m talking fist pump in the air, jersey-style happy about it. And that’s only natural when you’ve just lived through, and some how come out the other side of how scary the quiet stage is.
But the problem is, because we associate being really busy with “this is actually working,” we start to worry that taking any time off whatsoever from the action of DOING will slide us right back in to stage one. Scary, quiet, lonely stage one. So busy for small business owners starts to equate to happy. It’s a win. It’s a rush. It’s maybe the world’s best legal high. And taking time off from that high, by comparison, in a very real way starts to resemble withdrawal.
You feel the twitch in your arm until you can’t restrain yourself from hitting “get mail.” Your mind races with all the things you could be, scratch that should be, doing. You beat yourself up for how much farther you have to go, and all you can think about is how good it feels when you’re making progress, any kind of progress, toward that goal. So you sneak a little. Cause just a little won’t hurt. But….it’s a slippery slope. And soon a little turns into a lot. And you’re right back to working yourself til you can hardly recognize the face you see in the mirror. Because working is better than the guilt.
Rationally, I know this is not good. :) Somewhere in the rational part of my brain, I know that we need rest. I know that when we take that rest we come back stronger, more productive than before. That rest is what’s needed to sharpen the saw. And I know that every time we force ourselves to work toward balance, to take time off, we come back and our business grows by leaps and bounds above what it was doing before. So why do we all continue to feel this way?
For me, I think it boils down to permission. In this life, we’ve always had someone else tell us when it was time to rest. Nap time in Kindergarten, winter breaks in college, a boss who made our schedule at work. But now, we are the boss. And it just doesn’t feel right giving ourselves time off. Like it’s wrong in some way…. that we’re cheating. Like it’s something that we shouldn’t be allowed to do.
And that brings us back to guilt. Useless, irrational, sword-dulling guilt.
Well this last week, I had a revelation.
Because this past week spent in Hawaii with Justin & my dad was the first time (maybe in the past four and a half years since we started this business) that I was able to go away, take entire days off at a time and not feel the slightest tinge of guilt about it. On the contrary, I was defiant. I almost dared anybody to question it.
And of course, I think the reason it was like that is because we were doing this for someone else. Which came with it’s own natural high. And also, I knew without a doubt there was nothing at work more important than this.
So like I said, I had a revelation. I realized two things: 1) it is possible to take time off without guilt when we truly believe that time off is important (this was a revelation in and of itself!) and 2) we need to start thinking of that time we take off for ourselves (not just the time we take for others) as falling well under that important category.
I know this post has gone way too long as it is, but let me just end by saying this. Stage three (the stage we’re just now entering in our business) is the stage when you finally start to realize that what took four and a half years to build cannot be undone by taking one day off. Or even one week. And that constant action does not breed success. Intentional action with a clear vision does. And finally, rest and balance are absolutely necessary if we want to be able to stick around long enough to ever figure out what stage four and five look like.
So, if you’re out there and you’re feeling guilty for the rest & play you so badly need….take it. Don’t wait another second. And if anybody dares to question you about it, just tell em Mary Marantz told you you could! :)
I give you permission.
And since this is a Pancake Session after all, here is an Instagram picture from my pineapple stuffed french toast from Lulu’s in Waikiki. And I didn’t feel a bit guilty about those either. :)
**If you’re new to the blog, Pancake Sessions are a series of business & life FAQ’s we do on an ongoing basis. If you click “Categories” at the top of the page and then “Pancake Sessions” you can see all of them we’ve ever done!