Are you “klaar”?
There is a common trap that I keep falling into. Maybe you do too.
I like to think of myself as a person who is constantly growing. As a result, I am susceptible to any program, course, or book that promises greater insight and momentum.
I don’t think this is an issue on its own. My problem is that I jump into new activities enthusiastically without considering if I have the time, mental energy, and motivation to actually achieve the results I seek.
In September, I set an intention to complete various personal and professional projects before the end of the year. My primary focus was feeling more at home in the Netherlands. It’s been four years since my family and I moved here and I’ve taken a lackadaisical approach to integration.
This includes driving in the Netherlands. It’s easy to get around here on bicycle and my husband happily drives us on longer trips, so I was in no hurry to get my Dutch driver’s license. The process requires taking driving lessons on narrow, winding roadways packed with cars, bicycles and motor scooters, and passing a theory exam based on 200+ pages of minute details, many of which are new or contrary to what we do in the U.S.
But not being able to drive here was holding me back from opportunities. So I finally contacted a driving school and began my lessons. At the same time, I was taking Dutch lessons, had recently joined a pickleball club, continued working with clients, and began my most ambitious project yet – writing a book.
After a few intense weeks, my old pattern returned. Like countless times before, I jumped into my new goals and projects full of enthusiasm, only to burn out quickly and feel badly about my lack of consistency and results.
(Finished) Ready Set Go
That’s when I adopted the Dutch philosophy of klaar.
It’s not actually a philosophy, but I think it should be. You see, the Dutch word klaar means both “finished” and “ready”.
Ik ben klaar met eten. Ik ben klaar voor dessert.
– I am finished eating. I’m ready for dessert.
Ik ben klaar met dit project. Ik ben klaar voor de volgende!
– I am finished with this project. I’m ready for the next one!
There is a simple beauty in the logic. You must finish one thing before you are ready for the next.
Everything, Well, All at Once
Yet in our culture, we don’t value the practice of focusing deeply on one thing at a time. We are obsessed with self-improvement and equally fixated on productivity. As a result, we are conditioned to multi-task, and prone to believe that the next new thing will be the ultimate solution. So we reflexively take on more without assessing if we have the resources to properly follow through.
If we resist the pressure to do it all, then we feel lazy. If we give in, then we set ourselves up for disappointing results, shame and burnout.
By naming this invisible force, we can release its crushing weight. Like an old-fashioned photograph developing in a darkroom, the ridiculous notion that we should be able to do Everything, Well, All At Once crumples as soon as we expose it to light. Intention and permission rises in its place.
Revisiting my ambitious plans, I understood that I was heading toward burnout, and so I took a new approach. I gave myself permission to cut back on my work hours (I realize I’m in a privileged position to do this) and to pause other activities in order to focus on my driving theory exam.
It felt wonderful to dedicate several hours a day to studying for the exam. And as a result of my focused efforts, I passed on the first try.
Now that my theory exam is behind me and my road exam is booked, I am klaar for working on my book.
What are your upcoming projects? If you’re like me and tend to start too many projects without the focus to complete them well, then ask yourself the following questions.
- What project do I want to focus on?
- What is the duration of this effort?
- What would help me make progress? (accountability partner, paid program, my own accountability/reward system)
- How much time per day or week am I willing and able to devote to it?
- Does that fit into my schedule?
- If not, what needs to change? (wait until I have more time, give up another activity, delegate responsibilities to free up time)
By focusing on being ready to start something, rather than just being enthusiastic about it, we can make more mindful choices about what to take on. This way, we’re more likely to see our projects through to completion and avoid the cycle of burnout and disappointment.
What are you klaar for?
Emily Shull is a holistic money coach and founder of Me Myself and Money.
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