How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” ~Henry David Thoreau
Busyness is worn as a badge of honor these days. It’s the medal everyone now wants to win along with the award for who got the least amount of sleep. Do a quick mental check and see if you’ve fallen into that trap or know someone who’s there now. Been there done that? I know I have.
Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, calls it the disease of non-essentialism. Non-essentialism is the idea that if you can fit it all in then you can have it all. In his podcast interview with Michael Hyatt, he lists the three main generational sources that have given rise to that notion. These have persisted, integrated over time and have now culminated in this affliction that’s killing us:
- Industrial Revolution- The notion of factory and belief that f you can just create a system that’s fast and efficient enough, you can have…….whatever.
- Post World War II consumerism– Greg calls it the panem et circenses, which is Latin for bread and circuses. Perfectly understandable for the time: people were rebounding from being on the brink of a world-wide, dark abyss into a world of plenty and financial success. The problem is that the party never ended and nothing was moderated…it just got more intense.
- Hyper-connection– Brace yourself: this phase occurred in the last 10yrs. That’s right, around 2005. I thought I was tech-savvy having a flip-phone back then. Now many of us carry around smart devices that have exponentially more computing power than what was used to put people on the moon! We no longer just have information overload, but opinion overload as well. In addition to indiscriminately giving people permission into our lives without even realizing it, our mental space and attention get trespassed on often (think of your e-mail in-box here).
So what’s the cure?
- Stop and create some space- take a 1/2 a day or whatever you need to get clear on what’s important to you, who you are, who you want to become, where you’re going and where you want to end up. That’s regularly scheduled space. The other kind of space you need is impromptu “pause” space for decision making. That is, putting a pause between any stimulus that makes a demand of you and how you respond to it. From a practical standpoint, this is where most of us get in trouble. We have a hard time saying “No” because we really don’t know what our powerful “Yes” should be.
- Start thinking differently. No, you can’t have it all so be intentional about the trade-off. Don’t kid yourself; everything costs you something and involves a trade-off of some sort. Although intentionally choosing which trade-offs to make is hard, it’s easier if you’ve done a good job in step 1 above. That’s because you’ll be in a position to decide according to your priorities. Then, the powerful “why” that undergirds your priorities will not only help you say “Yes” or “No”, but it’ll help pull you along as well.
- Lather, rinse and repeat the above regularly. My 1 hour morning ritual first thing in the morning and 1/2 day thinking time once month are minimums for me.
So what’s the cost (of not doing it)?
Most likely, ending up with more regrets in your life than you want. Bonnie Ware found that in her work with the dying, their top two regrets were:
- Living a life that others expected of them rather than living out what they felt called to do in their inner most being.
- Spending too much time at work and not enough with family and those that mattered most. In a word: self-imposed relationship poverty. (ok, that one stings me)
So what is it you need to do right now in order to put yourself on the path to getting the life you want? A life, that at the end of it, will be full of satisfaction and few regrets?
You can listen to the entire podcast episode Disciplined Pursuit of Less to hear the whole thing and get more detail. I think the show tag-line is appropriate to quote here: “Your life is a gift. Do what matters”
“God gave us memories to be rose gardens in the December of our lives” adapted from J.M. Barrie
Do you bath? Why? Most do so to get clean, but some bath to simply relax, refresh and recreate. Bathing (hot showers count) is an activity of both hygiene and renewal.
Dr. Art Nitz, a mentor and friend, told me something when when I was in my physical therapy Master’s program at the University of Kentucky that has always stuck with me. I just completed data collection for my first real research project and excited to move on the next phase….immediately…he said “Rob, take a minute and just bathe in the moment”. That wasn’t something I was expecting to hear and I had to think about it for a while. I have been thinking ever since.
Taking time to simply pause, breath deeply, reflect and heck, actually ENJOY what you’ve just accomplished requires intentionality. Otherwise, I settle for a quick “Yes!”, a fleeting moment of satisfaction, or miss enjoying the Win altogether. This is especially difficult if “Achiever” is listed among your top 5 Gallup Strengths as it is mine. After all, why waste time on something that is done when there are so many new things to do and conquer!?
My great-grandmother helped me get perspective on this (she lived to be 106). A widow for the last 25yrs of her life, she spent a lot of time alone and much of that on her back porch swing. I asked her if she ever got bored. She said “no, I always have my memories and they make for good company”.
Most people agree that bathing regularly is important not only for the person bathing, but for those who surround them as well. The same is true for bathing in the moment. Do you? While it looks different for everyone, don’t forget that it can give you leverage now and will be the seeds of a rose garden or briar patch in your future.
When is the last time you’ve bathed?
Margin: “The space between your load and your limits, rest and exhaustion, breathing freely and suffocating. The amount beyond that which is and that which is needed. Margin is like oxygen- everybody needs some.” This paraphrase from Dr. Richard Swenson, MD sums up margin pretty well, doesn’t it? It did for me.
The reality is that a lack of Margin most frequently manifests itself in two key areas: our time and our finances. The other reality is this: No one is going to walk up to you and give you more margin. You are responsible for making sure you have what you need and then setting the boundaries for yourself and others to ensure you have it.
There is a LOT that can be said and that needs to be said about margin. There is even more that needs to be done about it our lives. Others have done a great job of discussing margin in both the written word, in messages, blogs as well as in podcasts. I encourage you to access those resources for more detail, especially if you feel like you could use some breathing room right now.
Sometimes we lack margin and don’t even know it because we are on an adrenaline high, which masks the price we are paying. I really like the simple two-fold test below (thanks John Free) to determine if we have a problem with our margin or are approaching the danger zone in the two areas where it affects us most:
1. Money: Are you giving charitably or tithing and have some left over?
2. Time: Are you taking a day off or Sabbathing and have some left over?
Perhaps another is: Have you experienced a feeling of freedom within yourself in the last week like the picture of this woman conveys?
If your answer isn’t yes to both those questions then yes, you do need some margin. Now, what is the first next step you need to take to get some?