Do you have a picture in your mind of how you think your life should be? When chaos seems to
seize the upper hand, we tend to have conversations with ourselves—conversations that, in
truth, have no bearing on reality. See if you can hear yourself in any of these:

  • Things should always go as planned. In other words, nothing should ever go wrong. If only things went as planned, my time‐management system would work perfectly and everything would be just fine.
  • I should never have too much to do. I should always have just the right amount to do in the time I have available. If my to‐dos take more time than I have available, whoever made up all those tasks was cruel, stupid, and unfair. Even if it was me.
  • I should never make mistakes, and no one else should, either. If I do make a mistake, I’m a bad person and probably incapable of achieving whatever I was trying to do. If someone else makes a mistake in something that affects me, he should disappear forever.
  • Life should have no interruptions. I deserve a continual, unbroken cycle of productivity and bliss.
  • I should finish everything I start. If there’s a chance it won’t get done in the time I have available, I probably shouldn’t start it in the first place.

Sound familiar? You may be wondering why we’re calling these unrealizable fantasies. Think
about it, whenever you use words such as should, should always, should never, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Not only that, who likes to operate being “should upon?” These
unrealistic fantasies can shape our entire relationship to ourselves and our productivity—
preventing a real celebration of what is complete and limiting our prospects for the future and
how far we are likely to go.

There is a certain freedom, however, in acknowledging what words are shaping these attitudes
and recognizing them as fantasies, nothing more. Chaos sometimes prevails, no matter how
hard we try to avoid it.

You can experience a release, an unburdening, a sense of lightening up by merely
acknowledging these ideals for what they are: unrealizable fantasies. We’re not advocating
that you should be disorganized or not care about managing your life. What we do suggest is
that, for most people, the source of feeling disorganized, guilty, and upset comes not from
what you are or are not doing, but from the unrealizable fantasies that continue to play in the
background, invalidating all you do and inhibiting action toward future goals.
Master your words, own chaos, and acknowledge and appreciate what you have achieved!