Cultivating Sustainability

By creating sustainability, I mean designing a system or process you are able to maintain, keep holding, keep supporting, and keep bearing the weight of, in a holistic and healthful way, for a long or indefinite period of time.
— Hillary M

“THINGS THAT ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE” I write in my notebook. Pages has just crashed for the tenth time in an hour and I’m trying to finish an article on time. I hit “save” every couple of sentences, but I’ve lost enough work to make my bed a wild temptation right now.

I need to figure out why it’s happening and an alternative, if it isn’t fixable. A constantly-crashing program is not supportive of my longterm vision. I’m squeezing by for the moment, under deadline, but I know I’m not as focused as I should be. I feel rushed and frustrated. I’m writing, but my mind is wandering to my options, and wondering why a quick google search doesn’t answer my questions, and about two hundred other things.

This is not sustainable.

Nor is counting through change for groceries every week. Or juggling mailing list services when numbers push the payment tier into a higher price, which puts it out of budget for now. Or cobbling together a quick sale when you need the cash. Or staying up all night working. Or avoiding the hard conversations & boundary-setting. Or relying on samples instead of buying the jar of face cream I need. Or skipping breakfast.

The thing is, as resilient, faithful, creative & resourceful women, we know how to make impossible things work.

We are able to find brilliant ways through incredibly difficult times. We accept life’s challenging invitation to examine our attitudes & character. We invent new things. We know that a little duct-tape, coffee and mascara can keep us going for another day.

Or can it? In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard reminds us, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.”

Duct-tape is temporary. Coffee only goes so far. The mascara comes off. We look up, and ten years have flown by.

Yes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But while it’s great to make the best of any tart & face-puckering event, when life is handing you lemon after lemon and you are not picking them yourself from trees you lovingly planted and tend to, it’s time to figure out what’s really going on.

For longterm strength, growth & health you cannot turn something temporary—a quick fix, a cobbled-together system, or juggling credit cards to manage the fees—into a sustainable lifestyle. You cannot force your tender, sensitive self to become the next Marie Forleo.

You can fake it for a day or a year, but your truth will come out.

For sustainability in business, life, and love, you need a solid foundation and sturdy walls, not lack mentality and a ramshackle hut.

Most often, a lifestyle built with temporary solutions as the standard, not the exception, is rooted in either scarcity or shame. Scarcity leads to not-enoughness, hoarding (of things, ideas, food, and more), codependency and general lack of trust. Shame leads to not-good-enoughness, perfectionism, procrastination, self-preservation, addiction, and a constant search for acceptance, approval and love.

Identifying and healing the underlying beliefs is essential for transformation...and sustainability.

By creating sustainability, I mean designing a system or process you are able to maintain, keep holding, keep supporting, and keep bearing the weight of, in a holistic and healthful way, for a long or indefinite period of time.

As an introvert who is also highly-sensitive, it is not sustainable for me to show up as a vibrant, energetic entrepreneur with a go-get-‘em attitude and endless drive. I am not a born orator, so I will not be including a speaking tour on my list of gigs. But publishing books? Oh yes. An intimate book reading, with candlelight and oriental rugs? Oh yes. I can be successful in my own way, sustainably, by flowing naturally from the truth of who I am—truth that is NOT rooted in scarcity or shame, but in power and love.

So can you.

Living from power and love

Usually your true beliefs, those that guide how you govern your life, are buried under years of emotional accumulation. Creating sustainability does not happen overnight, but you can start the journey today by committing to do the deeper work of examining your internal foundation.

• Do you honestly believe you are loved, no matter what?

• How do you really know?

• Do you believe you will always have enough?

• Why or why not?

• When you reach for an unsustainable, temporary solution instead of what you really want, why?

• When you answer that one, again: why?

Your honest answers to these simple-yet-pivotal questions will open the door to creating sustainability in your business, your wallet, your home, and all the ways you show up and experience life.

Seem far-fetched? Give it a try, and be patient with yourself. Answers, and new ways of being, await you. ✮

Hillary McFarland