I call it the Eyes Bigger Than Stomach Syndrome (EBTSS) – one of the many reasons why our need/desires can often exceed our resources to meet them. Whether speaking for just myself or for the various non-profit teams I work with, EBTSS often is a main cause in the debilitating malaise of being overwhelmed, burned out, and in despair.
A bit of background here: For most of us, either personally or professionally, the things we need to do or want to do (be, have, achieve, create) almost always exceed our resources (time, money, energy, focus, support personnel) to accomplish. This is just part of the landscape of our lives.
In Need Exceeding Resources, Part 1, I explored the perspectives that can help us meet this challenge. Meet it we must because it’s not going away any time soon. There are just too many beautiful, intriguing, alluring, and necessary things demanding our attention. And the weight on our spirits of living from a place of not being able to handle it all grinds us down, down, down.
Over the years of life coaching tons of people, many of them directors of non-profits or entrepreneurs, I’ve gotten a good look at some of the factors that contribute to this sense of need always exceeding the available resources. Some factors just come with the local territory. Others can be manipulated (I say that in a good way) so as to make our lives a bit easier, to give us more breathing room and more space to thrive.
Up near the top of this list of malleable factors in the challenge of too much need and not enough resources is EBTSS – Eyes Bigger Than Stomach Syndrome. In this case our eyes refers to our vision or our expectations, that is, what we can see in our mind’s eye. With our inner vision we can imagine really big things. This is one of the best things about us as humans: we can dream big and make big things happen. Yay!
At the same time this ability to dream big, to think big, to take on big and many things can get us into big trouble.
By big trouble I mean we often mistakenly start to believe we can be/do/have it all right now. We start to imagine that we can (and should) pile way, way too much on our plates. We might be thinking “It’s all so yummy,” or “If I don’t take care of it, who will?” or “This is such a great idea, I don’t want to miss out on it,” or, “That’s only one more thing that will just take a few minutes,” or any of a number of other of “must-have-this-now” thoughts.
Certainly we can have our grand plans and our big ideas AND we have to have a realistic, grounded understanding of how much we can actually take on, in this moment.
I’m not bursting big dream bubbles here because I’m the queen of big dreams. What I’m being a stand for is grounding our big dreams in ways that makes them more likely achievable and more sustainable for us. We have to know how much we can pile on that plate of ours and eat in this moment without hurting ourselves.
In order to get our dreams from our heads and into reality we have to work within the laws of physical reality. Absolutely we need ample amounts of dreaming and magical thinking to get past the huge obstacles in our way. At the very same time we are still subject to the rules of operating in the space-time continuum (yes, years of Star Trek inform my perspectives). We can’t ignore the confines of this nuts and bolts reality. Available resources – like time, energy, ability to focus, money, support staff – are all part of our nuts and bolts reality. We have to learn how to work with them if we want to give birth to our big dreams. Continually attempting to bend space-time to our will is exhausting and counter productive.
Falling Awake coach Dave Ellis has a great idea for ensuring our dreams match our resources to achieve them. He suggests dividing our dream manifesting to-do lists into three categories: those of possibility, plan, and promise. There are some things I’d really like to get accomplished today (possibilities), there are those things that are necessary enough that I’ll set aside the time to get them done (plans), and then there are some things that I’m going to get done today no matter what (promises). Ellis says we can have no more than 3 promises on our to-do lists at any one time!
Yikes! I know how you feel. He’s kidding, right? We can have only three promises for the day? I’ve got more than tree big things in my head before breakfast (which could be why I’m breaking a sweat before I even get to my email). Forget the automatic things like brushing your teeth and feeding your cat. Think about the things that will require your effort and focus.
By narrowing my focus to 3 promises to myself at a time I’m doing two things. First I’m recognizing the limits of my resources so that I don’t get overwhelmed, burned out, and in deep despair. Second, this laser focus prioritizing makes it even more likely that I will make my most important dreams a reality. Because I know that to actually keep these promises to myself (or others) I have to have a plan including all of the necessary resources (time, energy, focus, etc.) to ensure their accomplishment.
My grand dreams are even more likely to become real when I narrow my focus to what is most important, to keeping my promises to myself, and not overloading my plate with too many other delicious opportunities. This is true whether I’m making plans for umpteen weekend projects or for my million dollar business plan. To say “Yes!” to my deepest desires I have to be willing to say “No thank you” to some other possibilities. Because the truth of the matter is (for now at least, but who knows what future technologies might offer) I really can’t eat the entire feast I yearn to pile up on my plate today.
There is so much more to think about in this area of need exceeding resources and how to get our broad visions into our physical realities, particularly for women. So stay tuned and chime in. What’s something you’ve learned about how to hold your big dream and not overload yourself in a way that actually keeps you from what’s most important?