It’s the start of the school year so I can understand how you have arrived here with the rest of us. Where’s here? Let me ask a simple question as you rush about your day.
If I ask how things are going at work or at home, do you reply, “Crazy!“?
Yep, you’re here. In the Land of Crazy.
Are you So Crazed? Are things Crazy Busy, but maybe when they Calm Down we can catch up? And then, you know, things never Calm Down because they are just Always Crazy?
Have you so bought into the Crazy that it’s become a familiar State of Being?
I recently started one of my workshops by sharing a Crazy Busy story. In front of more than a hundred people, I relayed a typical Crazy Day in which, after juggling the morning exodus, I somehow drove away with my coffee cup on the roof of my car, only recalling where I had left it with the subsequent flooding of my windshield by that cafe-au-lait rainstorm.
I tell the story, I get some laughs and then I inquire if anyone else has done the same. The point is to demonstrate how stories are a connection tool – even if the audience members haven’t done precisely the same thing, they can empathize with how it could happen. So, my script is based on one or two people, or even none, raising their hand to admit they too, have driven away with their coffee cup atop their car. I’ve rehearsed it this way and have it down pat.
You know what happened when I asked this question to this room of busy professionals? Half of the attendees raised a hand. Half. That’s 50 people who have driven away in a State of Crazy with their coffee cup on the roof of the car. 50 employees who were willing to admit their Crazy-Driven-Obliviousness to a room full of their work colleagues. And they all looked at each other, knowingly, and laughed. You did that too? Look how crazy our lives are!
I was so shocked by the high percentage of our Shared Crazy that I stumbled for a moment and forgot my speech.
Why is there so much Crazy? Why have we allowed the demands of our work and the pace of our lives to reach this state in which only daily caffeination and the sympathetic urging on of friends (“Oh, I know, I’m so crazy too!”) keeps us there? It’s as if we must compare our Crazy because even considering stepping off the Crazy Train might oust us from this club where such insanity is celebrated.
Can you imagine a conversation like this?
Jane: “Hi Jo, how are you?”
Jo: “Crazy! I had two reports due today and my daughter has the flu! How are you?”
Jane: “I’m good. Things are really in balance right now. I started my day with a mind-cleansing walk in nature. I’m utterly at peace with the world and all its inhabitants.”
Has Jane gone mad? That would never happen. And if it did, Jo and her friends would talk about how crazy Jane is. Not Crazy like Crazy Busy like the Rest of Us but Weird Crazy, like, let’s not invite Jane for coffee because there must be something wrong with her.
So, may I ask, why do we support each other’s membership in the Crazy Club? It’s as if we’ve created the expectation that here we must stay because to step off the gas and relax is Too Crazy to even fathom.
I lived the Crazy for so many years, it’s almost as if I celebrated it as a sign of success. (I’m Crazy Busy, I must be living a really full and interesting life!) But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t work. Because you’ll reach a point When Work No Longer Works. And while I still get caught up in its whirlwind on occasion, Crazy is not sustainable for the long haul. It can lead to some serious Burnout.
Crazy always comes around. But it should be a temporary situational challenge, not a constant state of being.
So, if you’re living in the State of Crazy, how to you move to a better address? Say, Happy Place?
Here are 3 tips to Control the Crazy:
Don’t Wait for Things to Calm Down, Just Calm Down. Seriously, calm the f-ck down. Don’t be So Crazy that you drive away with your coffee cup on the roof of your car. Sit still for just a minute. Breathe. Gather your thoughts and don’t let them gallop away from you. Stop waiting for things to finish so that you can finally slow down. Take the reins and pull yourself back because there is no finish line.
Set Your Intentions. Instead of starting each day thinking about How Much I Have To Do, try asking How Do I Want to Feel Today? And then use your answer – Positive? Productive? Creative? Relaxed? – to set your actions to create that feeling. Use a mantra if you are so inclined. When the Crazy starts its familiar swirl, I remind myself, “You have enough, you are enough.” And I do, really, have enough. When you fully take stock of all you have, you realize how little you need. Maybe it’s time to Edit What’s No Longer Working for You. Less do. More feel. Be intentional about how you want to feel.
Find More Happy. Try this exercise: Take a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle, creating two columns. In the left column, write down everything you do on a typical day. On the right, write down everything you do that makes you happy. Now look at what you can move from the right to the left – something from the What Makes You Happy list to the Do Every Day list. I hear you, “But there’s no more room on that list! I can’t handle one thing more!” Revisit the list on the left. Cross of the five things that are least important to you. There. We’ve just made room for a little more Happy.
Don’t think any of these tips will work? Don’t have the time to even try it because you’re so Crazed? Consider this – you’re reading this article because you feel so Crazy Busy, yet you’ve managed to find the time to read to the end. How crazy is that?
Now if you’ll excuse me, Jane and I are going to catch up over coffee…
How about you? How do you avoid the State of Crazy and Create Calm? Tips welcome in comments!
Valerie Gordon is an award-winning television producer and lifelong storyteller. As founder of Commander-in-She, LLC, Valerie presents customized storytelling workshops to professional organizations and corporations, speaking on a variety of topics including Plotting Your Next Chapter, The Art of the Ask, Work/Life Balance, and Personal Branding. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.