Last week I wrote a lot about perseverance. We all face challenging situations that require us to persevere, but it can be hard, exhausting and demoralising. Having a clear understanding of WHY, plus motivation and courage to keep practicing are key. And more than that, having raving fans to persevere alongside us. Trusted folk who will believe with us that there is always a way through.
The number of links within last week’s blog indicate how often I have written about these subjects before, over these last 6 years.
Because these are some of the root issues of life.
Deepening relationships….Communication….Shared experiences….Trust and empathy….Kindness….Vision and clear goals….Resilience, practice and not giving up…..Personal growth through self reflection….Self care, honesty and knowing our limits….Seeking to be a good example.
I doubt there will ever be a time in my lifewhen I am not learning and growing in all these areas.
Sometimes when the situation before us seems entrenched or we have been battling for a while, it might feel like there IS no way forward. We are running out of resilience and our persevering is not getting us anywhere because it seems like the way forward is blocked.
But there is always a way.
Trawling back through my early blogs, and I find one on the Mona Lisa trick. This is about perspective. When a problem seems insurmountable and that there is no way through, perhaps we need to stop and step back and look at it in a completely different light.
An early art class for one of my Nearest-and-Dearest had her copying a painting but upside down. It happened to be the Mona Lisa. But the point is that when we are so used to seeing something in a certain way – a problem, relationship, situation – we can get stuck in that perspective. Finding new creative solutions to challenges and ways forward through difficulties requires us to look at things differently.
On our own, this can often be difficult because the situation is SO familiar and we are hampered by all the associated emotions.
That is where life coaching can be so powerful. Having someone objective listen, help you explore options without judgment or assessment, and recast vision for what is most important can often enable us to get back to the roots of the issue.
And getting our heads out of the problem and using our creative brains not our problem solving ones is often what brings the breakthrough –
– there is another option. There is a way through.
When you are stuck and there seems no way forward, questions that can help gain clarity might be:
what would I do if I knew I COULDN’T FAIL?
if there were NO LIMITS to what I could achieve, what would I do?
what would be the BEST possible outcome here?
if I woke up tomorrow and this problem/situation was successfully resolved, what would that mean? How would things be different?
what FEARS or inner drives are influencing your decision here? If those fears were removed, what would you do?
what would those who are most INVESTED IN you say about this? What would they do and why?
who do you most want to BE at the end of this process? What would best line up with that?
what do you NEED to get past this that you don’t have at present? How could you take a sideways step to address that before moving on?
As always, this is food for thought. But sometimes we need to look at a situation completely differently to see that there really is always a way through.
Not giving up, persevering, and being resilient are crucial elements of our character that we want to model to others. Sometimes road blocks can come our way that seem impossible. Who is around you who could help you look at this situation differently? To restore your hope that there is always a way?
Where are you having to persevere at present? And what helps you?
Think of a challenging situation that you are facing just now. It might be challenging in a good way, such as learning a new skill or studying for a qualification or coursework. Or perhaps it might be a much harder ongoing challenge. Perhaps a difficult relationship with a partner, friend or co-worker, some hardship facing someone you love, or an entrenched obstructive situation at work. Whatever way you look, there are blockages and obstacles, and you are struggling to see a way forward. Frustration, weariness, emotional and mental fog ensue.
This of course is closely linked to not giving up, something I was musing about a few weeks ago. You can read that here.
I think that the fruit of not giving up is learning to persevere. We learn how to persevere in a situation where we might be tempted to give up, and in so doing gain strength of character and also succeed. Now that success might not look like what we initially thought in the situation, but that is where learning to self reflect along the way is so important. More in a mo.
Of course, perseverance has a much broader context. Sometimes giving up is not an option. Physical illness. Mental health issues. Difficult social circumstances. Injustice. Back to those entrenched situations at work.
I am at an age and stage in life where the challenges and situations faced by peers are complex and multi-factorial and unlikely to change any time soon. Teenagers and all associated joys and woes. Ageing parents. Health concerns. Relationship dynamics. Increased responsibility at work and in leadership roles. Huge restrictions because of the system, whatever that system is.
Sometimes the weight of it seems heavy indeed. And perhaps the tone of this week’s musings reflect the gravity of that.
Someone wise wrote that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. In the midst of suffering, that might be the last thing that you want to hear. A bit along the lines of the Great British stiff upper lip – chin up old boy, you’ll get through this.
But we can all think of experiences where this wisdom has been borne out. Times when it has been awful, hard, just plain grueling but we have persevered. We have stuck it out, come through it and see that along the way we have indeed gained understanding of ourselves and grown in character. We see we can persevere and that inspires us and empowers us to persevere again. And we model something very important to those around us.
That wisdom by the way – the suffering-perseverance-character-hope cycle -that was Paul, in the book of Romans in the Bible. A fair few years ago now right enough but to me, still holds true and is worthy of some reflection.
What helps us persevere?
Because this is what is needed in here, in order to turn the tone of this post around into something more positive.
being clear about WHY this is important – what is the desired outcome and why is that worth pursuing or fighting for? Stepping back from the precipice to self-reflect every so often.
this is linked to our motivation – what is going to help us keep going day in day out, and where can we give ourselves prompts? [old post about this here with a cheesy title, but it is part of a bigger series on steps to happiness and does not suggest that our motivation should always be our happiness!]
practice is often required, especially if we are persevering with learning a new skill or implementing a new habit. I observed to a good friend recently that I have been blogging (almost) weekly for six and a half years. 307 blogs. Phew. He was slightly stunned. And if I stop and think about it and allow myself a wee minor celebration, I am really chuffed at that achievement. A recent client commented on how important it was to her that my website is up to date, as evidenced by my blog. But goodness, how my style and confidence have changed over those years! [here’s an early one on perseverance – the themes have not changed much!] However I can see that I have persevered, learned, tried things out, and gained confidence and a voice.
self care is crucial, especially in really tough situations where we have to persevere. Understanding our limits – more on this here – taking time to restore our souls, being kind to ourselves on darker days.
and more than anything, someone to persevere alongside us. I believe strongly that we were not meant to live this life alone, as islands of independence and self-reliance. In our struggles, there is strength in letting someone else in and asking them to walk beside us and be strong when we think we cannot go on. Raving fans who believe in us and with us and who cheer us on.
Who is alongside you as you persevere?
Cherish them, thank them, let them love you.
And who can you come alongside this week in their struggles and hold them up when they are feeling face down in the mud? Who can you offer yourself to persevere with?
What are you most grateful for this week? When you think about the week just passed, how much of the time was your focus positive, and how often negative?
What we focus on and fill our minds with hugely influences our thoughts about ourselves, our lives, and others. There are twin laws at work here:
the law of cognition – you are what you think
the law of exposure – your mind thinks most about what it is exposed to.
It therefore follows that when you focus often throughout the day on what you are grateful for, that will have a hugely positive shift on how you perceive yourself and your life.
This does not mean that we take a Pollyanna approach to life and deny all that is difficult or challenging.
But if you regularly notice and are grateful for what you have and are, chances are you will approach challenges with more of a CAN-DO attitude. You can see where you have succeeded and managed before.
You will be more likely to take an “I GET TO do this….” approach rather than “I HAVE TO do this…..” as you see all the opportunities afforded to you.
When our minds are full of negative thoughts, frustrations, distractions, worries and woes we can tend towards feeling pessimistic about our lives, our opportunities, our chances to change things.
Think about your own life for a minute and where you most tend to go in your mind.
It can be a real discipline to stop the negative thoughts and worries and instead note what is good, positive and that you are thankful for.
But it really works in terms of shifting our perspectives and view of ourselves, our lives, and the wider world. There is loads of research into the power of gratitude – a nice wee summary piece here from Positive Psychology Program on multitude of benefits of gratitude.
This week, I am most grateful for elder Nearest-and-Dearest completing her exams.
Phew. And a huge YIPPEE!
It has been a grueling year for her, and studying, assignments, assessments and exams have dominated all of our lives. Much of the time, my mind has been tended more towards the negative – the amount of work needing done, the outcome of these exams, how to help with study and deal with anxiety, planning our live around the workload.
I am of course not alone in this. Many friends are in the same boat, and it is a relief to know that it is not just me who has found supporting a teen through exams to be like an additional job on top of all the normal aspects of parenting.
But as I think about this in relation to being grateful – a wonderful character trait that we must indeed model to the younger generation – I am grateful for many things, large and small. It is good to stop and take stock of the past few weeks of study leave, and the last term and see all that we have to be grateful for.
Good education and opportunities. Supportive teachers who go the extra (many) miles. Great friends and family for moral support. Lots of resources to use, online and off. Lessons learned about the importance of work boundaries, rest and rewards. Lessons learned too about commitment, hard work, persistence, resilience, effort and not simply focusing on the end achievement.
Having time back as a family where we can hang out without any time constraints. Having lower anxiety levels in the house. No longer required to help out with some crisis at the drop of a hat.
In the middle of challenging and difficult situations, sometimes the last thing we feel like doing is finding things to be grateful for. But going back to the laws of exposure and cognition, this is the very time that seeing the positive is most powerful.
How to do this?
Well, like most things, it takes practice – as I was musing last week. And perhaps for you, some kind of structure.
at the end of each day, write down three things that you are grateful for
at the end of each week, write down your top three achievements – especially good if you are self employed and/or your own boss and the focus tends always to be on what still needs done or what problems there are
start a gratitude journal – lots of research to show the benefits of this, and some nice tips and templates here.
as you are practicing being more present in the moment (see last week), note what you are grateful for at the same time.
as you transition between things during the day, stop and acknowledge what just happened and express gratitude, internally or out loud
None of this is rocket science. But it does take practice and being intentional about what are choosing to fill our minds with.
How grateful a person are you? – what would it take to turn that up a notch this week?
It is an oft-quoted statistic that it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill. This hypothesis was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’, where he was referring to work by psychologist K Anders Ericsson. Gladwell’s argument is that with enough consistent practicing and effort, anyone can become an expert in a new field. 10,000 hours equates to 90 minutes per day for 20 years.
Practicing being present
Wow, what a thought.
But then, consider some you know who are brilliant artists, musicians, writers, chefs, speakers, sportspeople. No doubt they would attest to the importance of commitment, practice, repetition, reinforcement, and sheer hard work.
That 10,000 hours statistic has now been largely debunked. There is no ‘magic hour of greatness’ and success is multi-factorial and complex. The quality of practice is important, not simply the quantity. The environment in which you grow up and your genetic makeup play a part, as does your mindset.
And you would think that by now I would have got the hang of this, this being present and enjoying the moment business. After all, I’m the one doing the exhorting and encouraging.
But therein lies the importance of that reminder from Messrs Gladwell and Ericsson – this takes practice.
There is a LOT going on just now. A good friend and I remind each other most years of the need to approach June much as we would December. When you have school age children, the end of the summer term becomes as crazy-busy as Christmas. Add to that a number of other plates that I have spinning, and there is a daily – nay, hourly – tendency to be distracted by what I Need To Do Next.
So each day I am learning – slowly, this takes practice too – the art of practicing being present.
Stopping and noticing….
…what is going on around me.
…to how I am feeling and what my senses are telling me.
…what I am doing RIGHT NOW without the need to multi-task.
This great mindfulness tool is a wonderful practice to introduce to your day if you too are practicing being present and enjoying the moment. Great for anxiety, for grounding, for switching off to distractions.
STOP. Yes, right now. And notice…
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste.
Really stop and savour your morning coffee. Listen to the birds singing and notice the variety, pitch, cheer in their song. Delight in the astonishing variety of green that is around us in abundance in our astounding natural world. Revel in that gorgeous soft fleece or the feel of wind between your newly unveiled toes (socks off, it’s summer!).
These are simple things yes. Trite and meaningless when considered next to our complex and troubled world? I think not.
Enjoying the moment and all the richness therein, knowing that this moment will never happen again is a skill (read this for more inspiration!). It can be achieved, but like most things, it takes practice.
I am practicing being present, and reaping the rewards. Try it with me, and see for yourself.
Resilience. Learning from failure. Growth mindset. Not giving up.
There is much around on these subjects, and rightly so. Growth mindset is a very trendy topic in schools, where the emphasis is on embracing challenge, persistence and rewarding effort.
Key to all this for me is that it is OK to get it wrong.
This is a subject I have spoken about right since I started this blog, as it is so key for our character growth and emotional maturity.
How do you deal with failure?
This quote by Thomas Edison is quite a challenge – that our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
Is that true for you? That your greatest weakness is giving up? If I were to ask you to list your weaknesses, (cheery I know) how soon would that spring to mind?
What do we gain by giving up?
Seems an odd question I know.
Avoidance of fear. If we give up, then we don’t risk not succeeding at all, especially if we can come up with a good excuse. We avoid being exposed as frauds, failures, incompetents.
Avoiding asking for help, and thereby admitting that we cannot do this ourselves.
Not having to face the people who asked us to achieve whatever it is with further failure and seek an alternative or more time. We can simply walk away and avoid that altogether.
Being able to get on with something else. Because after all, this repeatedly trying again is turning out to be time consuming and hard work. Harrumpf.
Letting ourselves off the hook of our own expectations. This is a big one for me. Deeply scripted values mean that I tend to take a “if I say I am going to do it then I will do it” approach. Sometimes the temptation to give up is associated with then being able to stick my head back in the sand and pretend the whole thing never happened.
James Dyson famously tried to invent the bag-less vacuum cleaner more than 5000 times before he succeeded. He did not give up, despite the huge effort, frustration and potential humiliation of that.
He got it wrong repeatedly, and yet was passionate enough about achieving his goal that he persisted and tried again until – eventually – he got it right.
I mentioned last week that we are back in exam season. For examees close to us, not giving up is indeed pertinent and current. Learning quotes, language tenses, formulae. Practicing, rehearsing, revising, reviewing.
And doing it again.
Despite boredom, frustration, the temptation to be outside in the sun.
Because the outcome is important and it matters.
I am heartened that there has been input at school on growth mindset, and when it comes to exams, the importance of acknowledging and rewarding effort as much as achievement. There is a tricky line to walk between the importance of exam success – because of doors that are then opened to desired courses – and one’s worth and identity not being tied up one’s achievements.
Failure is inevitable. But learning not to give up is about recognising that even when we fail, that is not the end of the story. Often it is just the start if we are able to look at what went wrong, be open to positive external influences, try new approaches and pick ourselves up despite our battered and bruised noses and egos. In our house, Maths is a case in point, and a great example of failure being turned into success through willingness to not give up.
Where are you tempted to give up?
What situation might you be facing where you think:
I’ve had it, this is too hard, I’ve tried too often and I ain’t doing this any more.”
Sometimes, in some circumstances, that might be the right thing to do.
But more often than not, what we learn by not giving up bears much fruit for our futures.
We learn not to be derailed by failure into a black pit of negative belief – just because we have failed at something does not mean we ourselves are failures.
We learn to balance our negative emotions and take a more objective view, knowing that our worth is not tied up in our achievements but in who we are.
Fruits like perseverance, persistence, resilience, endurance, consistency are all of great worth when we come to the next challenging thing we face.
I know that as I have been musing here on what I want to model to my own Nearest-and-dearest, one thing is for them to see me be honest about my failures but to see me regroup, learn and try again.
Because I do not want to be defined by my failures or by giving up. I want to be defined by a willingness to try again and always be open to learn, change and grow.
What about you – what have you learned recently from not giving up on something? Or perhaps someone? And how are you choosing to pass that life skill on to others close to you?
What situations over the past week have moved you to tears or prompted you to take action? What was it about the person(s) in question that really got you? You put yourself in their shoes, related to their experience and shared their feelings. You showed
The state of my innards this past week has been a barometer for my empathy levels. As I write, there are major exams being sat by eldest Nearest-and-Dearest, plus three Godchildren. I cannot sit their exams for them. But – oh dearie me – can I ever empathise with the process and horrors of exam taking. My anxious internal rumblings and grumblings testify to my heightened awareness of all their stress, anxiety, concentration, weariness (apologies for the oversharing).
More momentarily – I’ll let you get over that image.
Last week I was musing about kindness, and how kindness doubles when you share it.
One important facet of kindness is empathy. They are not always connected: we can be kind to another without necessarily needing to tune into their situation. We see a need and can fill it.
But sometimes kindness is the practical outworking of empathy – we relate to someone’s predicament and choose to do something about it.
For me, what links kindness and empathy most is the third facet of empathy:
There are three types of empathy, as described by Daniel Goleman, author of the key text, Emotional Intelligence: cognitive, social and empathic concern.
Cognitive empathy is about seeking to understand someone else’s perspective. This is where one of my favourite quotes of all time comes in –
I studied To Kill a Mockingbird at school some 30 plus years ago, and it remains my most ever favourite book. I now re-read it every couple of years and it makes me laugh, cry, and rage as much as ever. As a lesson in how to get alongside other people, and to take action prompted by all facets of empathy, it takes a lot of beating.
[An early blog here shows my devotion to this book, and the wisdom therein.]
Social/emotional empathy is about feeling with the other person what they are feeling. This goes beyond seeing their perspective, and is as if their emotions spill out and we blot them up and absorb them. This of course can be a problem in situations where too much emotion hinders rather than helps.
You will know when you have been on the receiving end of this. When you have cried and someone has just sat and cried with you, without seeking to fix, help or express platitudes. When you have seen in them the mirror of how you are feeling, and that they are fully present to you with no agenda other than to be in there in the mud and mire with you.
This is a real gift – to give and to receive. To be present to someone to this extent, to give of your emotions, your time, your energy, your vulnerability. This is one of the foundational elements to emotional maturity, and the basis of rich relationships. Daniel Goleman talks more about this here, in relation to leadership.
Take this to another level, and you get empathic concern. That perspective of the other person’s situation, plus your shared emotional experience of that prompts you to take action.
To do something about their situation, to help them out, to be there for them in practical ways.
Going back to my innards – my stressing about these exams is not going to help the examee one jot. However, if I convert that anxiety into empathic concern, then I am in a position to help. I can’t sit the exam. But I can allow my empathy to prompt action – to help create study structures, to test on quotes needing learned, to prompt regular breaks and exercise. To ensure there is ALWAYS cake in the house.
What is going on in your life just now?
What situations are those you care about facing that are causing you grief? There may be much that you are not in a position to do to change that. But where might your empathy prompt you to take action in the form of empathic concern?
To do what you can to make their situation better or more bearable?
Last week, we started musing on what it means to model the kind of person you want others – especially children – to be. As you have been thinking about that, what sorts of characteristics have come to mind?
What would you want to do less of?
And what would you want to demonstrate more of?
There is no hierarchy for good character traits of course – it will depend on your own values as much as anything else. But for me, pretty high up the list is
How have you been shown kindness over this past week? What sorts of random or less random acts of kindness have you been in receipt of?
It’s just about the only thing in the world that doubles when you share it.
And there is science behind the benefits of kindness too, according to the wee video on the Random Acts page, which you can see here.
When you look up definitions of kindness, it means the quality of:
friendly, generous and considerate.
What I love about that is how simple it is, but how powerful are those words in combination. Being friendly is great, but couple that with being generous and the effect is more than doubled. Add consideration to the specific individual in question into the mix, and the effect is magnified considerably.
How much fun is that?!
And often showing random acts of kindness like that is easy, quick and simple. But – and here of course is the kicker – it takes us to have a level of consideration beyond our own immediate circumstances. This links back to the idea of being busy and present. When we are busy, and distracted, it is harder to notice what is going on around us – those who might benefit from a little act of kindness on our part be it a smile, a word of encouragement, a helping hand.
So for me, being considerate is not just about considering the unique situation and needs of the person in front of me – shop keeper, colleague, family member. It is about stopping in that moment and considering my own immediate situation and what response I can give. Not being caught up in my own world or what’s next on my list, but giving internal consideration to how I can do something small beyond my own self.
Last week, a friend made me a beautiful gift. She took time over it, used her own skills and creativity and materials. And even more, she personalised it for me with specific words that mean a lot to me. I was moved to tears by her kindness. Her gift was generous, considerate and unexpected and I will treasure it. And it serves as a wonderful prompt to me to do something similar for someone else.
Yesterday I had a long conversation with a new connection I had made on LinkedIn. A wonderful, inspiring and skilled marketing expert, I initially – and somewhat skeptically – expected her to be trying to sell me her programmes. But over the course of the call, she showed interest in me, asked about marketing challenges I was facing and then gave specific and clear pointers about how to address some of these challenges. I came away from the call bowled over by her kindness and generosity with her time. What was fun was I got to ask her what I could do for her in return. She paused and said the question was unexpected. But – as the Pay it Forward people know – generosity breeds generosity.
Kindness grows and fosters kindness and everyone wins.
None of this is new of course. According to Wikipedia, the origin of the phrase “Pay it forward” could be over a hundred years old. The idea of being kind to unexpected beneficiaries is not new.
And I have spoken here about this often before. The importance of kindness as we each in our own small way seek to make this world a better place – read more here. And examples of kindness on the world stage, more here.
But like everything in life, it hurts not to be reminded of that which is most important.
So this week, I encourage you to do two things.
Make a note each day of kind acts that you have received. It is a great way to build gratitude and confidence.
And secondly, each day take time to consider who you can be kind to and how. Be they random acts of kindness, little things in the moment, or carefully-thought-through acts: ideally, all three!
When you were a kid, what did you want to do? Become an astronaut? A rockstar? Travel the world? Make a fortune?
But perhaps more importantly, who did you want to be? And who was a good role model to you?
I doubt if there was as much focus at school on your character development as there was on your academic progress and career prospects. But at the end of the day, surely the people that we are matters most: this ties back to death bed regrets. Would we most want to be known for our business achievements and financial success, or our integrity and kindness? Of course the two are not mutually exclusive – that is nonsense.
And one of the best ways to encourage the next generation is to model to them the kinds of character traits that we most want them to grow in.
Kindness, integrity, patience, courage, empathy, self-confidence, open-mindedness, resilience, humour, willingness to say sorry, acceptance, determination…..the list goes on.
All good, all important.
And how much more important to live alongside the younger generation in a way that allows them to see these traits in action, rather than simply telling them.
Demonstrate kindness even as you are encouraging your child to be kind.
Listen to them with respect and attention and they are more likely to listen t you.
Tell them when you got it wrong and be quick to say sorry, and they will learn that it is OK to mess up.
There is much published on this – the importance of being a good role model to your child. This great wee article spells it out beautifully.
And of course this concept is not new. Ghandi said
Be the change you want to see in the world”
We long for there to be more kindness and empathy in the world. So choose to model kindness and empathy.
As we everything, we forget, and it is good to stop and take stock every now and then.
If you are a parent, what types of behaviour do your children most see in you? If they were to become ‘just like you’ …..
…what would that be like to be on the receiving end of?
In our house, major exams are looming large. Their outcome is a huge determinant of future education and career opportunities. And inevitably, there is a lot of focus on study, academic achievement, exam success etc.
But I am acutely aware of my own behaviour and what I – often subconsciously – model to Nearest-and-Dearest. Do I stick with what I say I am going to do or procrastinate and faff? Do I have good boundaries round my work and take time off like I am encouraging in her? Am I as quick to affirm effort as I am results? Do I model perseverance and a reasonable work ethic? Do I talk about my own failures and how I have taken stock, regrouped and moved on? Do I laugh at myself sometimes or is the focus always intense and high pressure?
These examples are pertinent to my own stage. But whether you are a parent or not, chances are there are younger people round about you – at work, extended family – and more than you realise, they will be watching your behaviour.
So this week, pay attention to what you model to those around you. And over the next few weeks, there will be further musings on character traits that we could all do with more of.
This week sees the end of Lent. Anticipation builds as we look towards the celebration of Easter this weekend. For some, that might mean the prospect of a long weekend, family celebrations, ending a fast, feasting on chocolate. For others, it is the acknowledgement of the life-and-history-altering events of the first Easter. Whatever your focus this week, as Lent comes to an end, so too do my musings on the idea of giving up busyness for Lent.
Several habits have been proposed, and I wonder of all of these, which would be the most life-sustaining going on beyond Easter?
Or to put it another way:
What one thing stands out that if you were to continue doing it, would make the biggest difference?
Perhaps it is choosing to live busy but grateful – a perspective shift of seeing what we get to do in each moment and being grateful for it, rather than always rushing on to the next thing. Choosing to see the rich fullness of our life and celebrating all the opportunities we enjoy. Lifting our eyes above and beyond ourselves to see where our lives fit within the bigger picture of the world around us can be a marvelous and humbling way to hoick us out of our negative grumbling.
Suddenly that which we are stuck on lessens when we compare ourselves with those who have nothing.
Or perhaps, to put the big rocks in the jar first.
Work out what is most important to you in life and prioritise those things first. This can be on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis. But I do encourage a regular stopping and reflecting on how you are living, and to what extent your stated priorities are actually your lived-out ones.
What if you continued practicing being present and not distracted?
How do you measure a successful day or week? By how much you have achieved and ticked off your list? Or by the person you have been that day? Have others perceived you as present to them, kind, engaged with them? Or distracted, frazzled, preoccupied with what you perceive that you need to get done? Practice being present to those with whom you are in conversation. If you had 6 months to live, would you really prioritise the task over the relationship? Choosing to live knowing each moment matters because you cannot live it again.
Choosing to stop multitasking and do only one thing at a time.
Give that task your full attention, in a mindful sort of way. Sounds a bit Winnie the Pooh but is that so bad? Winnie the Pooh would describe TODAY as his favourite day. And he was a great believer in enjoying the little things in life.
Someone else very wise observed the futility of being preoccupied with tomorrow’s worries – tomorrow will worry about itself. None of us can add a single hour to our lives by worrying or being distracted by what we need to do. That wise person happened to be Jesus, and seeing as this is Easter week, seems fitting to quote Him (Matthew 6 if you want the full stop-you-in-your-tracks impact of His wisdom).
Do you need to be needed? Or believe you are indispensable?
Perhaps what has stood out is the need to do some internal searching and rearranging as you recognise WHY you need to be busy – you recognise that you need to be needed, and some work on your identity and self-worth are required. Perhaps too it is coming to the realisation that you are not indispensable. It is OK – shock horror – to say NO.
The Lent busyness fast has highlighted your own needs.
Or simply at the end of Lent this year, what has resonated most is acknowledging that you too have needs – and that is OK. It is not just necessary but essential for you to have time for you, to recharge, to do nothing, to restore your soul in whatever way is most appropriate for you so you are fueled to life the life you have.
So I encourage you to take a little time this long weekend (if you have time off – or pick another time that works better for you) and think through what change would make the biggest difference.
Write it down, plan it in, stick to it.
And many blessings on you this Easter – at the end of Lent, may you know fullness of life, gratitude for all you have and who you are, and the joy of being full present to that life.
There is a wonderful old song by Bing Crosby et al that expresses the joy of being busy doing nothing:
We’re busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do…we’d like to be unhappy but – we never do have the time.”
The song is ridiculous but it makes me laugh (and reminds my of my now departed favourite radio show). But how wonderful would it be to have times during the day when we were indeed just that:
…busy doing nothing
Busy doing nothing – the original idea of the I’m Not Busy campaign was to spend between 10 and 30 minutes every day doing absolutely nothing. For 40 days.
A real challenge, and much more difficult and transformative than you could imagine.
Busy doing nothing
This is about understanding what is most important to us, and how we prioritise that accordingly. What are the rocks in the jar for us, and how proactive are we at putting them into our week first?
Because for me, this is the crux: one of those rocks is self-and-soul-care.
There might be some deeper issues at work here. Last week I was musing on our need to be needed as fuel for our busyness.
Busyness can also be a form of armour to avoid looking inside or dealing with something that is more important – a relationship, a family situation or a character flaw in ourselves that is too painful to address.
If I keep on being busy, I can anesthetise myself to how I am really feeling, and pretend that everything is OK.
This was me for many years. Just get on with it, keep busy, make sure there is no time to stop and actually acknowledge your feelings and – worst of all – your own needs. I can tell you from my own experience that this approach works for a certain time and but ultimately leads to a crash-and-burn situation. You can read more about my own story in relation to the depression in our lives in my Black Dog series.
But we do all have needs, and learning to identify them and take appropriate care of them is important.
Being busy doing nothing may seem like a dream. But it is really about taking time to recharge because we are busy, not when we have time – there will never be time. We need to recharge to sustain the life that we choose to live. We need to learn to value ourselves, and see that time doing nothing – recharging our emotional, spiritual and mental energy – is crucial to our well being.
I have spoken about this here a lot – this idea of soul care.
But – I guess like you? – I am slow to learn, and need to remind myself of the need to sometimes be busy doing nothing. In a restorative way.
As I think about how I want to be perceived by others, especially those closest to me, I am increasingly aware of the importance of being grateful and present to them (see two weeks ago). And of modelling the idea of appropriate self-care. For my nearest-and-dearest seeing me doing things for me that are restorative and enjoyable because I need that in my life.
Perhaps this week you can take some time to be busy doing nothing. If you need some inspiration, I leave you with Bing and his friends:
Busy Doing Nothing Song with Lyrics Sung by Bing Crosby, William Bendix & Cedric Hardwicke - YouTube