Measuring our worth by our accomplishments, or by other people’s opinions of us, leads to insecurity and exhaustion. Not exactly a recipe for a meaningfully productive life. Author Mary DeMuth has some wise advice for counteracting those tendencies and finding contentment.
Encouraging yourself and training your mind toward contentment
Mary DeMuth began writing in the 90s while her children were sleeping or occupying themselves. As she’s said, she labored in obscurity for more than 10 years, learning the craft of writing and developing the discipline she’d need to manage a writing career along with a family and other commitments. Since then she’s written over 30 books, having 2 to 3 books a year published during the past decade, and she’s become a sought-after speaker as well.
She wakes up between 6 or 7 a.m. and begins her day with some meditation or exercise, followed by working on her most important projects during what she has found out is her most productive time of 9-12. When she’s writing a book, she continues working on it after lunch, but by dinnertime she turns off her computer. She’s learned that working too late exacerbates her insomniac tendencies.
Mary is hyper-vigilant about getting things done. Back before she ever had a writing contract or the deadline that comes with it, she trained herself to finish projects (e.g., books) on time by setting deadlines for herself. After years of practice with this, she gets her work done and submitted before her deadlines.
Her challenge, however, is putting too many things on her plate and having a hard time saying no. She still gets everything done because she’s so determined, but if she has too much going on at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. She is soon starting a mentoring business for writers and she worries about her time and abilities.
Productivity tools Mary uses
Mary uses the Pomodoro Method to help stay focused and productive. She particularly likes the ticking of the timer, as she is competitive.
She’s also very tactile and likes to write down her to-do list. She has tried computerized task managers, but the feeling of physically crossing something off her list is very satisfying to her.
She still uses Google Calendar to keep her appointments accessible when she’s traveling
When she’s writing, she enjoys setting a daily word count goal, which she tries to reach during her productive times of the day. There’s more to being an author than just writing the book, though. She also needs to schedule time for promotion. Sometimes it’s difficult to promote your own product or service, but in order for people to find out about those products and services, promotion is unavoidable.
Why we get hung up on others’ expectations
In Mary’s latest book, Worth Living, she talks about how our sense of self-worth can be hammered by the tendency to compare ourselves to others. Some of us are haunted by worries about what other people think about us. Those worries can paralyze us, preventing us from even starting, much less finishing, the projects that are important to us. But what Mary reminds us is everyone is selfish and they’re not paying attention to what you’re doing because they’re so worried about themselves.
Our insecurities also make us think our goals and accomplishments determine who we are. We can get caught in the trap of believing our worth is validated by what we achieve. But that’s a recipe for exhaustion, at the very least, because if that’s what you believe, then you can never simply rest. Whenever you achieve something, you keep looking for the next goal to achieve. You’ll always be looking for the next mountain to climb. But, Mary points out, this isn’t the way to truly find happiness.
Contentment and gratitude are the keys to truly finding happiness. Being content with what you have helps you realize that no matter if there are loose ends, you can choose contentment instead of focusing on what’s not quite “right.” Mary suggests a simple exercise to train our thinking toward contentment: list 28 things you’re grateful for. This will help put your focus on all the good in your life, including your accomplishments, and put the struggles and challenges into better perspective.
What happens on a day you feel gets away from you?
Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a dear friend, Mary suggests. She finds that encouraging herself, the way she would a friend or loved one, helps relieve the pressure of a bad day. Rather than beating yourself up for not accomplishing what you hoped for, imagine stepping outside yourself and treating yourself with the same grace you give to those you care about.
Just give yourself some grace and tomorrow it’ll be a new day. … I learn so much more through grace than shame.” ~ Mary DeMuth
Final thoughts from Mary
When things get chaotic and out of control, I will sit down and write out what I would like to see happen in my life … and begin to work my way toward it.” ~ Mary DeMuth
Connect with Mary
- On her website.
- You can find Mary’s ReStory Podcast on iTunes, Android, and through her website.
- Mary will be speaking at The Restory Conference in Rockwall, Texas, later this year, for anyone looking to find out more about living a new, rejuvenated story. More details can be found through the Lakepointe Church website.
Mary DeMuth is a former church planter in France and the author of more than 30 books, including The Day I Met Jesus. A sought-after speaker and longtime blogger, she has overcome (through Jesus’ healing) a difficult past to become an authentic example of what it means to live a brand new story. She lives in Texas with her family.
What do you think?
Do you have questions for Mary? Did anything she said particularly resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode. Please feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts with me by emailing me, commenting on our Facebook page, or leaving a comment below.
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I liked Mary DeMuth’s suggestion to talk to yourself like you’d talk to a dear friend to relieve the pressure of a bad day. We should all be our own best friend first!
Laura McClellan says
I agree, Shaunah. That was one of my favorite take-aways from the conversation with Mary.