There I was again, at way past midnight, scrubbing the cooker to perfection like my life depended on it. I had messed up our family diary and organised a party at home with our local friends, completely bypassing second child's very first performance with her new dance group. She took it in a very grown up way. She was disappointed, but didn't hold a grudge or anything. It was worse. She told me she was sad we didn't make it. That I didn't make it. For all the resilience I have in front of spitefulness, I am hopeless to deal with sad. And so, in the three hours since I picked her up, I had been feeling guilty of my poor diary management.
What about the cooker point? It's coming...
We all experience guilt. At some point or other in our lives. A survey published in the Telegraph earlier this year, shows that, out of 1043 respondents, 49.7% feel guilty all the time, even over the smallest things. Whilst I always take stats with a pinch of salt (I have worked with them for a long time, and know you can take them out of context easily), this remains a really large proportion of people.
What do we feel guilty about? A wide range of topics apparently. From not sticking with a healthy diet plan to not calling friends and family often enough (that's me). Leaving a pet at home (me again - I know, pathetic, but I so do), or having a whole weekend in your PJs.
Guilt also seems to grow with having kids. I never experienced guilt as often as since it I have had children. I think it's because you want to be the best you can be for them, more than anyone else. You want to be Super Me. Make them proud of you. Show them strong life principles. It's just so hard to be at your best all the time, at work, at home, with your fitness, your family, your other half. I find it a constant Tug o' War game - pull harder on the work side, and the housework start lagging behind, welcoming you home with piles of stuff everywhere. Oh, I hate the piles. Pull on the family side of the rope...and you rapidly fall behind with work, especially if you have your own business, on your own, and haven't worked out how to expand days beyond 24 hours.
So there. There's no escaping guilt. C'est la vie.
I find that every time I feel guilty, I also feel frustrated (of feeling guilty) and stressed (of feeling frustrated of feeling guilty).
This amounts to a lot of extra energy. Negative one cert, but energy nonetheless. And I know that to snap out of it, you need to:
shift your focus.
Otherwise you keep looping through the guilt/frustration/stress circuit.
So when I feel guilty about something (and it happens...a lot. I'm definitely one of the 49.7%), I use my extra energy to focus on something good. A way to:
balance the universe
Perhaps. Here are my four favourite ones:
• Work it out -Combine high intensity training and high focus workouts- so that you can't physically or mentally focus on anything else for an hour. I personally love "punishing" types of exercise, from circuit sessions to HIIT and body pump.... I'll up the weights, race against myself to up the reps. I often do my best workouts on a bout of guilt! And come home ready to climb back on that horse again.
• Sprint it - This work especially well if I get behind with my weekly work targets and start feeling guilty about that. When this happens, I always give myself until the Sunday night of that week to make up for it. Not a minute longer. Indeed, that means that my Sunday nights can be spent in my office catching up on blog posts, proposal for clients or implementing a new business solution. But that also means that on Monday morning you can sit down at my, feeling back on track, and get on with your new week as planned.
• Master it - Patisserie and chocolate work (my professional world) requires exactitude, creativity and technical skills. There is no limit with what you can create - providing you use the right methods and ingredients. When I feel guilty because I didn't get it 100% right, I get my head down, back to the drawing board and onto self-learning sessions. I'll shut down my emails, social media and any other distractions, and practice until perfect.
• Blitz it - please don't laugh. When I feel really guilty about family situations, I time challenge myself around the house with a specific task. I normally target the kitchen: From sorting out all the cupboards to cleaning the cooker. Or have a complete "wardrobe tidy". Don't let yourself do anything else until the task is 100% complete. Then stop, have a coffee (ok, you can have a tea if you insist), and admire your handy work. What can I say? Works for me. Best time to do it? When you have a hard deadline like the school run. No escape.
You might have noticed the magic word: focus, focus, focus. Pick a specific goal. Add a deadline. And get on with it. Until the feeling of guilt is overridden by your sense of achievement. No one is perfect. But you should feel better after this. As for me, I now have a sparkly clean cooker.