You Can Do Anything You Want, But………

032 Margin II Table

You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want. “No” is a complete sentence: no explanation needed.

I love coming across pearls of truth like the one above where a ton of wisdom is packed into just a few words. To me it is kind of like a zip file; once you access it the content expands and becomes actionable.

I can’t remember exactly where I came across the advice in the first paragraph of this post, but am pretty sure it was when listening to Michael’s podcast on How to Regain Interior Margin Through the Practice of Stillness. Regardless, check out the podcast because he addresses one aspect of the topic of Margin in a very practical way. He also has a number of other posts that speak to the subject and Dr. Richard Swenson has written about extensively.

Getting clear on your Margin gives you the space and breathing room to pursue the important (ie. your Mission) and not get derailed by the urgent. It also allows you to set realistic expectations…including “stretch” expectations……on what you can and can’t get done.

I’ve come to the realization that while you can progressively improve in your battle for Margin, it’s better thought of as a daily practice rather than a fight that is won. When I view building Margin in my life as a destination point rather than an ongoing process requiring deliberate practice, I set up an unrealistic expectation and get frustrated.

Victories in our respective battles for reclaiming Margin are sometimes measured in inches (or rather seconds) and the battle lines ebb and flow. How would you measure your Margin right now and where would you put your line?

Don’t compare yourself to others, that usually leaves you with either a false sense of elation or frustrated, neither of which is good. We each have our unique capacity for work and requirements for Margin. How do you know when you have what you need? I gave two examples in a prior post that may help you answer that question in the area of your time and finances.

Here are two things to remember: no one is going to walk up and give you more Margin and no one cares more about your Mission than you do. Here are four questions that can help you get clear on your “M&M’s” (Margin & Mission) and take action:

  • What do you need to stop doing to move you toward your desired outcome?
  • What are you doing that if you did less of it, or stopped it altogether, would move you toward your desired outcome?
  • What are you doing that if you did more of it, would move you toward your desired outcome
  • What you not doing, that if you started it, would move you toward your desired outcome?

*For the last two questions, if you are already stretched you have to give up something before you add anything else.

Remember, you can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want. Knowing what you need to do in order to get the Margin you need for renewal and pursuit of the important things in your life is key. That awareness will allow you to move from
being scattered, overextended and fried to focused, right-sized and effective. And enjoying it in the process.

032 Margin II 2 Table

I would love to hear what is working for you as well as what you are struggling with. I bet we all have a lot more in common in this area than we think and the dialogue could really help move the needle forward for everyone.

Of Coffee and Sunsets

Don’t look away while the coffee is brewing or the sun is setting.”

02 Coffee sunset 10785716_m

The Cabana in my backyard is my favorite place to go for uninterrupted, focused thinking time and reflection.  I take advantage of it not only during my scheduled thinking time but when unexpected opportunities arise as well.

The ritual that gets me in the mood for these sessions is to fire-up the coffee pot perched on the east counter top so that I am able to sit facing it. That way I have a great view of the sun rising in the morning and if it’s the end of the day, of the sun setting.  As often as I can, I try to be sitting and settled in a little before sunrise or just before sunset.

There are two brief, special moments that occur in this ritual that are the main motivating factors for me. In fact, I go out of my way in arranging my schedule just so I can experience them. The first is watching the steam rise from the coffee pot at the very end of the brewing cycle….the pot gurgles and churns as it empties the last of the hot water into the carafe. The way the light refracts off the floating wisps of steam and the changing shapes makes for an almost magical experience. The second is watching the reliable retreat of the suns fading rays in the form of a light-line that inches its way up a few selected Oaks and cedars that have now become familiar “sign posts” for me.  I love those moments and look forward to them.

Now here is the rub: while planning, anticipating, charging the coffee pot, going out of my way to be in place and only needing to be observant in order to experience these moments that are a mere few minutes from occurring, I have often missed them!!! Why?  Because I became distracted with something much less important. In fact, it is usually the mundane and ordinary that I allow to steal these more important moments away; like looking at my calendar (or checking e-mail), repositioning something not quite in its place, and a dozen other similar things.  I then look up and only catch a final glimpse of what I came for or have missed it altogether.

The last time that happened and I was kicking myself for it, it dawned on me that life is a lot like that for us, more often than we want to admit. The only difference is that the special moments we plan for and anticipate are much more important than watching coffee brew and the sun set.  Like not fully enjoying the hilarious word or act by your kid (or grandkid), missing out on an chance to encourage your colleague, or simply bathe in the moment of a hard fought “win” of some sort.  Why? Because we become distracted with the ordinary.  Can you relate?

I know what I am saying is common sense, but common sense is not common practice.  If you aren’t intentional about being observant and in the moment, you will end up trading the special for the mundane more often than you might imagine. By reminding myself to not look away while the coffee is brewing or the sun is setting, I am missing fewer special moments less.  What’s your reminder?