There are always times when you suddenly have a big project you have to finish: you have homework from three teachers, you have a term paper due next week or you have to clean your room by the weekend and you haven’t done anything about anything for months. A lot of times when you see the big project you just stop: you freeze solid and can’t move forward at all. This does not help, and you know it, but somehow you just can’t start. Worse yet, you go off and do something easy for a while, maybe even a long while, and turn a huge project into an even more difficult project.
By wanting to step aside and do something easy you aren’t being bad but you do perhaps need more experience in things. One of the best things to remember about huge projects is the old joke: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Everything: every project, job of work, problem, snarled-up mess or whatever, is always made up of parts. Sometimes the parts of the problem seem to be glued together or like a mobile: you can’t tug on one part of it without making all the other parts move. That can certainly be frustrating! However, in cases like that you can ask for help from someone that has had a similar problem, experience or project.
If the project is not too hard, like cleaning your room or doing a term paper, you can either break it into areas or break it into parts. Say what you need is to get into your closet but your room is so full of junk that you can’t even open the folding door all the way, and it’s been like that since last Christmas. Doe it make more sense to just clear the floor in front of the closet and dump everything on the bed, including the extra stuff in the closet you don’t need? Sometimes that is the best way: cleaning by area. Or if it makes more sense to just clean up all the dirty clothes everywhere first, including the clothes under the bed, in the closet or whatever you have, then that’s the way you should do it.
It’s your project! You can do it any way that works. The only way you will fail is if you don’t do it.
In the old days in America, when a lot of people still had family farms, they used to have a saying: “Many hands make light work.” When you have other people helping you it does make things easier: there are some things you just can’t carry by yourself, or reach up high for by yourself either. It’s interesting and unusual too: sometimes when you have someone with you, it’s easier to do hard things because you feel like you have a friend beside you that makes the difficult work less scary.
However, you have to make sure that your friends understand that they are there for you: you are not there for them. Some will want to boss you around and tell you that they are only trying to help you. Well, in their minds they are, really: some people love to organize things even though they may not be their things; some like to have everything a certain way even though they don’t own everything, they can’t own everything, and certainly they shouldn’t own everything either. Sometimes they forget this and start trying to do what they want to do with their things, only it’s your things really.
You have to take such friends and ask them if they can do one job for you: organize one shelf or just arrange the books in your bookcase or just make sure all of your shoes have mates. You see: when you understand your friends, you can help them become a good work force by asking them to do things that they find easy because they are good at what needs to be done. This does take some thinking and planning! But that is part of working together: understanding each other first, even before the work begins.
Being nice to yourself and being kind are different things, although that idea may seem strange: aren’t they the same thing? No, not really: being nice to yourself means to give yourself what you want, when you want it. Being kind to yourself means to put something off if it is good for you, for your health, so you can do something else that you need even more or even caring for yourself. Being kind can be acting like your own mother! It seems so nice to yourself to put off something you have to do: the term paper, the homework, the chores or whatever.
But being kind to yourself helps you realize that, if you did your term paper early, that would be very nice indeed. Being kind means that you do your homework, not because you have to do it for the teacher or for your parents or whatever but because when you learn things, you make everything easier. You can never know when you might need to remember about the square of the hypotenuse or that a cup of water is the same as eight ounces of water and the same as half a pint. You never know, so it’s kind to make sure you have as many tools in your toolkit for life as you can.
Being nice to yourself means doing your chores, again, not because you’re doing it for your parents or because you’re being punished! No, doing your chores like making your bed, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, makes things really so much easier in the future! If you know how to wash dishes then when you move out and you live alone you can always find a clean dish when you need one and you don’t have to go and buy one! If you take out the trash, all that walking and carrying makes you a little stronger, remember?
So: being nice to yourself usually means that you give yourself a free pass for right here and right now. Being kind to yourself is when you think things through for the future and you can see how something will be good for you later, even though it might not seem good for you right now.
When you are kind to yourself, you become a better person. How can this be so? Doesn’t almost everyone tell you that if you do something you like, or take time for yourself, or say “No” to someone else’s demands that you are being selfish? Being selfish is considered bad and unkind to others, right?
The difference is that being kind to yourself is being selfish, but selfish with wisdom. When you are kind to yourself, you think things through first. You don’t let yourself get conned into doing something bad just because others are doing it: you reason things out first with yourself in mind. My friends are going to someone’s car and joy-ride it and they want me to do it with them, Why not? After all, I’m feeling bad and lonely and sad, and doing something daring (or dangerous or “special” with my friends ought to make me feel better, right?
If you are not paying kind attention to yourself, you might think, “Sure, why not? The adults (or rich people or the people who live in the classy neighborhoods or someone I just don’t like right now) haven’t giving me what I want, so sure, it’s right that I should take it from them. It would make me feel better now, so, sure, I’ll do it.”
The trouble is, that is not being kind to yourself at all. Because you decide to do something to hurt someone else, you are setting yourself up for shame at least and harm at worst. To do something just because others are doing it means that you are not being kind to yourself: you haven’t listened to you! You haven’t listened to yourself long enough to know that you are hurting, that you do feel lonely and unhappy. If you had been kind to yourself and listened, you would deal with the sadness and loneliness first, instead of doing something stupid right now.