It's hard to believe this day is here already. On November 1, I threw down a challenge to myself. It went like this: "I can memorize verses and inspirational quotes. I can write down my goals and action lists every week. But none of that matters if I don’t live it out. I’ve realized that every day is a test. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate my faith and my priorities – mainly to myself. If I let anxiety or worry or busyness distract me too much, I’ve failed my test for that day. This month, I’m setting the bar low. My test for each day is to post a complete thought or observation to this blog, sometime before midnight." I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said that I was 100% confident that I could do it. History wasn't in my favor. But the results surprised me, and they might surprise you too.
If you ever played video games, you're familiar with cheat codes. My favorite one worked on most of my original Nintendo games. Sometimes it made the game easier. Sometimes it made my character stronger. Sometimes it just made cool stuff happen. It was just a game. There wasn't any harm, and it made the experience more enjoyable. But my "cheating" was always limited to video games. In school, I was taught that building on (and using) the knowledge of others was wrong. We were taught to solve problems "the long way," and in the most important tests, we couldn't rely on anyone or anything for advice. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, except that those modes of thinking don't apply well to the real world.
When we're just getting started, focusing on the trivial details is often just another name for procrastination. Instead of doing work that matters, we worry about stuff that doesn't. Before this month, this was a huge obstacle for me when it came to writing. I would worry about having the perfect environment with just the right amount of background noise. I'd doubt my ability to write at the end of the day. I'd even research the best software for facilitating writing or go to "meetups" with other writers to learn helpful tips.
At an event, we often seek the "it" person to meet and connect with. We wait for the perfect opportunity to make an impression, always looking to climb to the next rung. I can replay that scene in my mind over and over again. Maybe it was a great speaker, a community leader, or an up-and-coming business owner. I've done it dozens of times and would likely have taken that approach again. Even though it almost never produces any fruit. Thinking back now, I can't recall a single meaningful relationship that started this way. So when Pastor Bil shared this thought today, it struck me as one of the most profound things I've ever heard.
In the United States today, most of us take at least a few moments to pause and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. We notice and mention the little things and the wonderful people in our lives. It makes for a beautiful day. And it makes me wonder why I don't adopt this attitude every day.
For some folks, the traditional holiday celebrations of food, family, and football are perfect. For others, some aspect of that trio just doesn't fit. I can relate. We have a couple of choices. We can feel anxious about not being "normal." Or we honor our selves and reframe our rest into something that's a better fit. This dilemma became very real to me when I stopped watching television. Unexpectedly, I had lots of time on my hands, and I'd run out of "productive" things to do. It may sound silly, but it made me very anxious. I did not know what to do with all that time, especially when I rarely had the energy for anything substantial. Eventually, I decided upon the goal of "active recovery," and I broadened that definition to include anything that produced positive, motivational, educational, or interesting thoughts. I decided that's it okay to consume; I just have guidelines on what I "feed" myself. In case you're feeling anxious about the upcoming holiday, here are a few ideas.
On a recent Facebook thread, several folks asked about different nuances of how I approach getting things done. Another friend asked about how I relax and then get going again. At first glance, those two topics don't seem to relate to each other. But after some thought, I think they're absolutely connected. Here's a few of my best tips, Q&A style.
Chalk it up to ADD or a bad habit of multitasking, but my brain often resembles a hound on a walk through the park. Squirrel! Another one - over there! Look! To get back on track, I must eliminate those squirrels. Mentally, I'll tell myself that it's time for a hunt. Here's my three step approach.