Sometimes the word productive gets on my nerves. It’s unfortunate, because in a lot of settings the word is helpful. I like thinking about the work I do in terms of productivity – whether it’s my job or passion projects on the side, it’s important that I’m productive because I love the things I do and I want my work to reflect that. But the second people started slipping the word productive into how we live our personal lives, I knew it would be something that bothered me. I can see how daily goals set around productivity and efficiency can help someone accomplish many things, but in my experience, that sort of mindset never helped me get what I needed to be mentally healthy.
I’d like to think that my approach to day-to-day living has changed over time. Like many other people, I went through different periods where I was trying to “live my best life” – that is, live a life where I felt comfortable in who I was and what I was doing. They revolved around different things, but the goal was always the same. I wanted to feel like someone who had a purpose and was living it out.
In hindsight, my logic to these approaches wasn’t the best. I left out a very important aspect of living that never really crossed my mind until recently. Throughout all of this experimentation, all these attempts to live my best life, I always focused on what I wanted – and not what I needed.
In my experience, it’s not always easy to get what you need – especially when it comes to mental health. I might want to be happy, but I need to be healthy. I want to go out in public and be around people and not be anxious, but I need to be in a space where I’m comfortable and can be myself. I used to view this more negatively, but now I see the power in asking for what I need.
I’d always assumed that being my best self meant that I’d like who I am all the time, or that I’d never feel depressed again. Recently, however, I’ve learned that being my best self actually means identifying what I need and making sure I get it. Over time, I’ve learned more about what helps bring me wellness and what doesn’t, and it’s helpful to use those experiences as a guide in my day-to-day life.
Every day, one of my first thoughts when I wake up is how do I feel? This question is followed with one that I have found just as important in the past few years, and especially during the pandemic: how can I get what I need today? Whether that’s mindfulness, calm, clarity or something else, centering what you need is a big first step to making sure you get it. Living my best life is vastly different than it used to be, but getting what I need – instead of what I want – has been one of the most important things for my mental health.