I am. I am raw. I am vulnerable. I am still here. What you see is… I am forever damaged through the death of my identity.
Sitting here listening to Red Table Talk, “Kelly Osbourne Comes Clean” episode, and “wow” what a great reminder of the power of addiction. There are so many great quotes that I could not help but share and re-numerate on the hold it has had in my life through her story.
In my life I have known addiction, personally, intimately, and compassionately. I come from a long line of drinkers, fairly stated more honestly, alcoholics. I was never going to be a drinker because I hated everything about it in my young life and still to this day the smell of beer takes me to a place that turns my stomach. However, my drug of choice was food and in that addiction, I managed to reach 274 pounds with more co-morbidities than I could count on two hands.
Addiction in my opinion, is a personality trait. Many people have addictive personalities that never spin out of control and the trait instead serves as direction and drive. For others, and what you hear most when the word “addiction” is used, the trail of destruction it leaves in its path ruins lives, theirs, and everyone around them. I can relate to both.
I love that the first thing Kelly Osbourne notes is that she “…made it all the way through the pandemic…” without alcohol, which speaks to survival. Daily survival without the addiction, rearing its ugly head, feels like success. This feeling breeds a sense of confidence that “…you are normal, and you are going to prove to everyone that you can do this…” thing that you have avoided, you are cured. You tell yourself one drink can’t hurt anything and then one becomes two, three, TEN. The lie that we tell ourselves that we can have one drink, one bite, or one of anything that we are addicted to, leads to a spiral down the rabbit hole of self-harm and hatred. You sober up and come to grips with your reality “I did it again” and “Now I have to start over” which then leads to “Well since I have already fallen “off the wagon” I might as well _______________ (fill in the blank).” “Normal” is not a thing for anyone with addiction relative to the substance that addicts them. The new “normal” is the process of avoidance of all that has control over you and in building a resolve that can never waver.
Kelly noted that she “let go of her tools” of those things that help her “stay clean every day”. This is always where it starts. We fool ourselves into believing something is more important. It takes work to work the tools that keep it all together every single day for the rest of your life. Staying in control of your addiction is paramount to your survival. It is knowing this that becomes your number one responsibility, to protect the place where self-care lives as your FIRST priority and put all else second.
Kelly notes that some of her “insane thinking” included the idea of getting “pregnant because then she would have to stop drinking”. It is where self-care is absent that we search for the “reason” to stop. That is when we are not reason enough. In my life I remember the same fucked up thinking where a diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure would now be the “reason” I would give myself to get serious about my food addiction because the threat of death would set me straight; until the drama of it all would wear off and I would live to eat again. It wasn’t enough to stop for myself or my family; it had to be life-threatening. It had to be dramatic. Addicts live in the drama. It is always life or death until it is death-defying.
Kelly notes “I make everything more difficult.” Yes, WE do. Nothing can be done without it being painful or wrought with effort. Addicts are people-pleasers trying to solve for everyone around them and as Kelly noted she “Drained herself (through helping others) and left nothing for herself.” It is through failed attempts to solve for everyone and everything around you that you finally realize and are forced to answer the question of “How are you going to help someone else when you are all messed up?” Addicts are addicted to everything and codependency is where we find our value. Tell me I am enough, tell me how much you love me, validate me for I am not worthy without your judgment.
The climb out of addiction is hard. “You have to get honest with someone” that can understand the power of addiction and is able to handle your vulnerability. The second part of that statement is profound because as Kelly stated “I tell too much truth” and “You cannot have a conversation with someone that understands…if they are not an alcoholic (or addict)”. I have experienced this so many times with those around me that would simply solve for me by telling me to “Just stop”. JUST stop eating. JUST stop thinking. JUST stop worrying. JUST stop doing. If it were only JUST that easy.
In true addictive personalities, there is no such thing as stopping. You don’t stop. You can’t stop. You learn to use tools to control, manage and live on the positive side of addiction. You also learn to be uncomfortable in the addiction as it is always there, looming in the background, pushing you to do the thing that feels right at the moment. And when we give in, after the instant gratification of that moment passes we are left stripped of our self-worth and confidence leaving us asking, “Am I good enough for help?” and doubting our strength because of the realization that “I have done this again.”
This interview was revealing. It was also a great reminder that addiction is “…so much more than not using.” If you are reading this you are not alone and if you are not addicted put this blog in your toolbox to serve as a resource for those addicted in your life.
I conclude with the final quote in the interview. The best gift you can give yourself is “The gift of giving yourself a chance.”
Life as I live it — L.
Yea, this picture, this is exactly what it feels like to be in my head on any given day. Contemplation over every single thing. Every single person. Every thought and emotion contemplated over and over and over again. Start…no stop. Do…no just be…still. My mind goes one million miles an hour from the minute I wake (before my eyes are even open) until the moment I drift off to sleep (only possible through medication). Obsessive? Compulsive? Manic? Depression? What does it really matter what you call it except that this is “Me”.
Interesting that I called this blog “Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up”. Initially, I wore this as a badge of honor; like a warrior in battle. Profound words indeed as I realize that the warrior in battle is only defined by how he leaves the fight; alive or dead. Success could be defined either way, if alive he won and persevered or maybe is alive as a prisoner of the war. If dead it could mean he was courageous in his fight or shot in the back while running away. Perspective. It is truly all we have; your perspective and mine.
I have learned through my life of therapy that you must respect everything that has helped you survive for without “it” who’s to say how it all would have ended. Addiction, compulsion, obsession, or whatever your tool, are survival mechanisms. Most are not sustainable in their original form but through adjustment can create incredible resources. Addiction in its most evil form can kill or harm however when redirected towards good can bring about major life change. Compulsion and obsession are also spontaneous and perfectionists in different forms. Perspective changes the judgment. If I say that “She is compulsive” it brings about a negative connotation however if I reframe it that “She is spontaneous” we reimagine someone free and liberated living a rich existence. Ha…perspective…what a lie.
By now you are reading and wondering, “Where is she going, as we are a mile down a rabbit hole and not sure if I am inspired or concerned?”. I am trying to realign my “resources” to stop the contemplation that threatens my sanity; and everyone around me. I am trying to figure out how to tame a “monkey mind” that is brilliant and yet all over the place. I am fighting deadlines and expectations as defined by me, myself, and I. I am wondering where you, the reader, fit into all of this or if you do. I post my writing and my activity to inspire…hmmm…or is it to get credit or yield criticism.
This is what contemplation looks like and where all other “diagnosis” exists. Call it what you will, or don’t. Understand it as you know it, or don’t. As one could guess I am not a “stick your head in the sand” kind of person; compulsive, obsessive, and contemplative people do not stick their heads in the sand. They do quite the opposite, they build 15 sandcastles and contemplate how many more to build; ultimately not needing one, let alone 15 sandcastles.
What is the purpose of today’s blog? Rant? Statement? I don’t really know. It is what was top of mind. It is where I am going to find an outlet. Contemplating the next thing I will write, the next thing I will do today or won’t. Contemplation.
Life as contemplate it — L.
Today is the last day I can claim 49 years old. I guess technically I could get away with saying I am 49 minus 1 day or 49 minus a week oh wait…that would actually be PLUS a day or PLUS a week. Then again that would be like professing that I am 120 pounds plus 30. HA! Sounds worse than just stating the truth; I am 50…in 13 hours!
I have been anxious about this birthday for a long time. I think when I turned 49 I was already grieving my last year in the 40’s before it had even started. I have attempted to define what causes this strife but like anything in life you can measure it only has value if it has value to you. Others would look at where I am and say any number of positive or negative things to which it simply does not matter; what matters is the feeling inside that says something is ending and where I wake-up as a new beginning is less where I have been before; less than. Hmmm…still not getting it right.
Things I wonder on this last day of 49:
- When do you stop blaming your childhood for your shit?
- When do you stop defining yourself by a number? Weight? Age? Bank Account?
- When do you realize this is where you are and allow yourself to be? The blog name itself suggests that “Always Starting” doesn’t allow a lot of room to “Be”. (Always Being…doesn’t have the same power and then again maybe that is the issue in itself.)
Things I know on this last day of 49:
- I know what brands work for me. I don’t need to “try” new things because the trial has been done and what works, works. This allows one less decision to be made on many things. (The oh shit moment in this statement is that I think what defines a Senior Citizen is they don’t like change! Oh shit indeed.)
- I know that where I am feels right; but why do I keep looking? My home, my job, my health (that might be stretch), my friends, my family…it all feels right. Now how do you simply sit back and cruise?
- I know what I NEED to do and what I don’t, the remaining question is how do I convince my monkey mind? “Always Starting” suggests that there is always a Monday, there is always a STARTING LINE and yet in that there is little rest and too much resistance.
Who I am is not fully defined yet. There are certainly places I have drawn a line in the sand and then other places I have yet to find that boundary. As I wake-up into the 5th decade of my life, likely more than half way through, I will work to resolve those things that have taken the first 50 years to learn and succumb and spend the time resolving to BE. I have threatened this many times before but this time, this has to be different. (Wow it sounds so serious. Like what happens if I wake up tomorrow and it is just like today. Pondering all of the same things? End of the world? I think not.)
This is me at 49.99 with 13 hours and 15 minutes to go. This is me; neurotic, always thinking and never satisfied. This is also me; caring, loving and giving. I am who I am as you are who you are; today and at any age. Tomorrow will come if I am so fortunate and upon waking I will breathe in the same fortunate air I breathe today. I will wake next to the same commitment that has helped me survive the last 25+ years and I will know that as I wake up I am better than I was the day before…at any age.
Life as I live it…L.
How do we stop the chase? We start it almost from birth. We are motivated to chase development as we enter this world, benchmarked against other babies, toddlers and children until our physicality has reached its peak. The chase then changes lanes to the mental capacity of knowledge as we learn and are tested via “standardized” benchmarks to determine where we sit amongst the pack and which then determines where we head to next; job, tech school, or college. For what? All to steep us for the chase that will begin when standing on our own two feet. The chase to be like others our age or better and long for what others want; regardless of our ability or means.
This dreadmill of the chase goes on for years; through our twenties, thirties, and into our forties before we are faced with fifty. To most, we hope that it is midlife, but we cannot know. We look at where we are in this moment after 50 years of chasing and find ourselves stopped, facing our new reality and wondering what is next and worse than wondering is why we should, could, or would do anything more.
This leaves us pondering the state of being versus doing. After all, once you consider stopping the chase there is no more doing. So where does that leave us? To be or not to be…that is the next question! The chase exhausts us yet when we stop we do not recover we reconsider. We feel guilty for not chasing. We feel lost on a path so worn that the path is now a hole we have dug ourselves into and you cannot chase if you don’t climb, if you don’t climb does this become the end?
The real deal is that we spend so many years chasing, climbing ladders, and proving the ground we stand on that when it is time to stop and enjoy the view we can’t see straight. At what point have we put in the time to be absolved of the work and enjoy the reward. There is no sign that appears that says you have now “Arrived”. Arrival is where the chase ends.
Ironic as it may be the chase ends at the start line of a new beginning. It does not require training because the work has been done and now the cruise control can be “set”. The funny thing about cruising is that it does not require anything more than what you have already learned and now have the resources to do; which is to be. You don’t apply the gas and yet you don’t put on the brakes. You cruise.
So here we sit, those of us at the FINISH LINE of a race well done, trained for, and accomplished. We may have a few medals around our neck even if just for participation. Now is the time to sit back and relish in the reward of all that was accomplished along the way. The learnings, the failures, and most of all the wins only made greater by the embellishment of storytelling. For here is where wisdom begins. We have earned the right of wisdom by stopping the chase. Regardless of the lessons learned, wisdom is all of ours to share for at this point in life there are no benchmarks, tests, or ladders to climb.
Stop the damn chase. Time to cruise.
- When? Now
- Why? Because you earned it
- How? Just BE.
Life as I live it — L.
This is about being present. This is about how to know you are here and not there. This is about bringing it back to center. The most valuable lesson I learned in the final days of my mother’s life was in presence. Being present meant being there with her physically, mentally, and spiritually. I promised myself as I walked away from that experience that I would forever live in “the moment”. Experiencing presence in such an extreme moment as the passing of one’s parent is intense and profound and while nothing we would ever want to repeat it is only worth the pain of the experience if you can experience the intensity of that presence in life without death.
The key to being present is giving focus to that moment and therefore checking for presence. The ultimate audit of presence is through the senses. Are you there? What are you seeing, what do you smell, what can you taste, what do you hear and what do you feel? This is how you bring it back to center. You cannot do this “audit” without moving back to the present moment. Our minds will wander and we will be reminded of something in our past or feel the pressure of what is to come in the future but checking in with our five senses will force, most gently, us back into the present moment.
Let’s try this out together. Using this moment as our present, as it is all we have and undeniably the present moment, let’s use the senses to audit our presence at this moment. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you see? What is in front of you? What is behind you? What is in the peripheral?
- What do you smell? Immerse yourself in your environment. Acknowledge the obvious smells and hues of other smells in the air?
- What do you hear? Go beyond the obvious that is in front of you and look for those accompaniments around you.
- What do you feel? Again, mentally, spiritually but also in the environment. Is there a breeze or is it still? Are your fingers engaging in texture?
- What do you taste? If you are eating search for the essence beyond the primary ingredient. Can you taste a spice or herb that is transient? If you are not eating what is the taste on your tongue or in your breath? Can you still identify the remnants of a previous meal or drink?
When this is read through as a process this can seem cumbersome or time-consuming however in practice it is quite simple and becomes a “pulse-check”. I was sitting with a friend at lunch yesterday and we were talking about “presence” and our monkey minds and at that moment I did a senses audit to embrace this moment that we were in. It was simple and yet the most valuable thing I had done all day; because I was checking for my ability to seize this very special moment and revel in the gift that it was and will now be remembered. This is the secondary benefit of “being in the moment” is that it then creates a more vivid memory to recall a moment spent in full presence. As I look back on that moment from yesterday I can now recall it more sweetly because I engaged all senses. It is now recalled as follows:
- I could see my friend. I was also aware of the people moving around us from a distance coming and going.
- I could smell the rich spice of my soup and the freshness of the vegetables in my sandwich. I could smell the fresh air blowing around us.
- I could hear my friend and her intonations as we spoke about life. I could hear cars passing, I could hear the breeze blowing around us, serving up the fresh air.
- I could feel my friends’ love for me. I could feel the tinge of coolness in the breeze. I could feel my gratitude for being in this moment and wanting to push pause on everything else in life.
- I could taste the warmth of my soup, the texture of the french bread I was dipping in the soup, and the crispness of fresh vegetables in my sandwich. I could also taste the sweetness of fellowship as it made the physical taste more intense.
This recollection is now only available to me because I had the wherewithal to stop and check my presence, at that moment, through my senses. My friend was not aware of my internal audit as my going through it only intensified my presence.
Stop right now and do the audit at this moment. Reading a blog can seem so insignificant without acknowledging it with all five senses. Reading is seeing, but what does it make you feel, and what can you hear in the background as you read, what are you touching while you read, and is there a taste in your mouth of sweet, sour, or neutrality. While I realize that everything in life does not have to be “a moment” it is worth practicing in the insignificant moments to savor the significant moments through this practice.
Think about your favorite moments in life and they are likely those that engage all five senses and were also likely in places that were curated to engage all five senses. Watching a movie in a theater, hearing music at a concert, or eating food in a restaurant creates impact and demands presence as these experiences command your senses. These places are set-up to engage every sense and in doing so creates an intensity in the moment that is remembered and leaves the participant longing for the same experience again. But what is the experience you are left longing to repeat? It is likely not to see the same movie again, hear the same music, or eat the same food. The longing is likely to experience a moment when all five senses are engaged again where you are so caught up in the moment that you forget everything except that very moment. That is presence.
This blog is a reminder to us all that every moment has the ability to be fuller and more profound if you simply allow yourself the benefit of being present. It is a tool to be practiced to engage presence rather than acknowledge it. In a world that is pulling us in a million different places and abusing our senses, it is so important to stop and control what you are sensing. Be present in the places you want to be with the senses you want engaged.
Life as I live it. L.
This longing for likes has taken over our lives and our businesses as we now act based on the interaction we anticipate on social media. We decide what we will do that we can post on social media hoping to impress. We socialize and take selfies of the most impressive places we go to show our popularity or access. We show the shiniest sides of life to gain favor from strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones from afar. But why? What is it all for? More importantly, what is it doing to us as a society or worse as individuals?
The debate would not be worth the conversation if there was no truth in the trend of posting all that “appears” positive or affected. When the topic is brought up in conversation you will often hear people explain that they use social media to keep in touch with friends and relatives that live in different parts of the world. If this were really about keeping in touch the “longing for likes” would not exist. But instead, we post what we know will create reaction; positive reaction. Rarely do we see someone posting a selfie in the midst of an argument with their spouse or when fighting with their kids to do the dishes, or even better a selfie of them doing the dishes! Why in the world would we want anyone to believe that our lives are anything less than perfect? Comparison is the enemy of social media as many will admit. The fierce competition to do what your “friends” are doing takes on a life of its own.
Telltale are those that “take a break” from social media. Why would you need a break if you are only sharing with friends and relatives?
Social Media has become the place where we go to find “normal”, the place we go to be inspired and then share our version to see the reaction. Social Media makes us feel like we are a part of something which is a core value of human existence.
Quote from Psychology Today:
Feeling connected to a group of people or identifying with them, based on shared values, goals, or experiences, activates an innate sense of community. The human brain developed to its present form when we needed to live in tightly-knit communities to survive. The importance of community is seen in the high degree of communal contagion of emotions, which is a powerful, albeit unconscious force underlying social structure. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201004/core-value
Ironic to think that the sustenance of social media abounds in a human core value to commune. In this definition social media gives us access to communities that we otherwise would not be a part of because of distance, affluence, or culture. It allows us to share and belong to groups that we seek regardless of city, state, country, or continent. It allows us to share with others fearlessly what we would not share in-person. It allows us access. That access when used positively can expand our worlds and when used toxically can literally shut us down.
I, like many of you “long for likes”. I post my wins, my family, and that part of my life that I am fearless to display. I rarely show my vulnerabilities, my weaknesses, or the darkest sides of my life. Doing so would be unacceptable in social circles and would come across as inappropriate and dramatic. I find this reality to be hypocritical.
Another point worth making is the theory that “I hold myself accountable” on social media because we all know that is not true. I don’t hold myself accountable on a public platform because no one is genuinely paying that much attention nor do they care whether you did what you said you were going to do. The fact that you did it once makes it “true” in social media culture. If you do one jog that you post on social media, you are a runner. If you make one post about the election, you are political. Think about it? When is the last time someone made a post that you searched their profile to find integrity on? Likely never. You accept it for what it is and in that the trust is fragile. It is surface-level, never running deep enough to hold anyone accountable.
Instead what we are all doing is scrolling through an infinite feed looking for those things that catch our eyes because they intrigue or inspire us or worse because they grab our attention if only through the eyes of a voyeur posing as curiosity. I no longer want to be a part of that culture.
Today I am making a conscious decision to change my social strategy. I will no longer post those things that are self-serving and instead will truly use the platform to share and learn. Share what I am learning in life. Share my thoughts on good books, and bad ones, movies, lectures, inspiration, stories, and all things in life WORTH sharing. Pics of my grandbabies, yep, those will happen from time-to-time, because after all who can resist; but the “longing for likes”…well that side of my social media persona…that side is retiring.
Longing for likes no more. -L.
Time to stop the guesswork
Run don’t run, eat don’t eat, work don’t work, sit don’t sit…it’s insanity! Everything we are supposed to do, we aren’t. Everyone we are supposed to be, we shouldn’t. Where is the line and who decides when you cross over? What I know is that when I run I am a better version of me. What I know is when I don’t obsess over what I eat, I eat less and better. What I know is when I put boundaries around work, I have more expertise. What I know is that I can’t sit…I just don’t know how.
Six months before my 50th birthday and I am finally realizing that the first 49.5 years were the dress rehearsal for what will be the best days of my life. I have spent 49.5 years learning how other people do “it” and then trying “it” on for size. Well I finally know what works for me and now I need to do “it” and move on to the greatest performance of my life, my 50’s.
I know what styles fit my body best and it is not likely that after 50 years this will change. I know what foods work in my system best, as no one has a system like mine. I know how to do my job best for the company that is the perfect fit for me. I know what I know and for those things there should be no more decisions. Let knowing be the decision allowing more time for those mysteries that remain.
Figuring out the last act
What I believe lies in front of me, in the next six months is to figure out the rest. Those things that I have not found the fit. The monkey brain that cannot slow down, cannot stop thinking, cannot relent that is what is left to figure out. Even for that I know the course to take yet continue to stumble as it takes over. The noise, the never ending cacophony of what I should be doing all the time is the next frontier. Do I meditate, do I use oils, do I listen to spa music all day, do I watch tv, read, walk, sleep…RIGHT down the RABBIT HOLE I go!!!
I know what I know. We all do. It is just a matter of putting it all in its place. I control the mind, it does not control me. I control the reaction regardless of what plays out in front of me. Just like the brands I choose to buy, the people I surround myself with, the life I have created…I ultimately have control of this monkey mind and that is the mantra, the final act I will rehearse for the sake of sanity.
Putting it in place is the easy part. Playing it out is where the rubber meets the road. Easy to do when the day is yours to decide. Hard-as-heck when the pressures of life have their way with you.
Life as I live it – L.
Space is Mine when Time Permits
As I have been enjoying the holiday for the last two days I have not worked at all and because we are in quarantine time is immense. There is time to do everything and anything; as long as I am home. As the past three days have gone I feel the tension and stress of my world lifting. I magically have time to do things I simply don’t have time for normally. I have read three books in the last week, watched a number of Netflix series and spent an enormous amount of time sitting on my back porch. It has been bliss.
I have also been spending time thinking about my writing and why I am not doing more of it. My words have not dried up, I have simply not taken the time to put them on paper. Where is my commitment to this gift that allows me to put things on paper that I don’t even realize I am thinking? As it happens when I get stressed the first thing to go out of balance are those things I love the most like hobbies and self-care. Ironically I realize how badly I need those things when I am stressed more than when I am not. It is those things that help balance me out, that take down the intensity within and allow space to breathe. While time permits I am finding my chill-factor surprising with today being the pinnacle as I decided to do literally nothing. I have read, I have walked, watched football, read some more and napped. Wow. …and then I feel guilty like I should be doing something. Why?
Trapped between Being and Doing
I explore this idea of doing and being productive with my therapist often as my self-worth is wrapped up in the doing. I struggle to simply “be”. I am still exploring the concepts of “being” and “doing” so I don’t have the answers but I am sure they lie somewhere in the balance that is otherwise lacking in my “normal” life. The fact is I like how “being” feels. Being seems to be where gratitude lives. When you are being you are not wanting more of anything. To be is to be one with what you have, who you are and where you exist. I want to want to BE.
The oxymoron here is that in order to be I do more to get myself to a point where I can be. Wait…what the hell? I guess that is truly the definition of an oxymoron and why I don’t have the time to DO the things I want to do or to simply BE because I am always doing things to get to the next state of being. Forget oxymoron it is simply moronic!
I conclude by being honest with myself and knowing that I am a doer and even in that statement it is flawed because I don’t get to do the things I want often enough. If time is mine to decide then why can’t I decide when, where and how I will “do” my life outside of a holiday weekend? I know the reality is that I can, I always decide even when I decide an unbalanced approach that turns me into someone I don’t want to “be”. The blessing of today is there is space to pontificate these states of contrast. The blessing tomorrow will only exist if I continue to pontificate on a new future; one where doing and being live together in a peaceful existence.
Life as I live it – L.
How do you know which to do? I find myself with more To Do lists than I have time “to do”. How do you conquer it with so much “left to be done”?
As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one …”
I have always understood this analogy as it is best to take on the largest or least attractive tasks first thing in the morning when you have the energy and are fresh. Most of the time the “frogs” that are awaiting us are in addition to the work that has to be completed to keep things afloat. By focusing while you are fresh you can more optimally eat the frog allowing you to get back to those other tasks. The easier and therefore more common thing we do is to start off the day believing that if we can get some of the less important tasks out of the way it will leave room to start the bigger project. If you have tried this you know that this is not the case and that you likely never get to the bigger project. We see this with email more than any task. Believing that you are going to do a few emails before starting the bigger project is a “trap” because email, much like a treadmill, just keeps churning. Email is also a “time-suck” because finishing a few emails turns into many emails only realizing when you look at the clock that you have been on email for much longer than intended. Turn it off, shut it down, or simply don’t start it until you are through with the priorities to avoid email becoming THE priority.
Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
I also understand this to mean that you just have to do it, whatever it is, one task at a time. Beyond “To-Do Lists” there are days I find myself taking life one minute at a time, which is another way to activate this advice. While this advice again is easy to understand it is harder to execute if you don’t have the time. Time is premium these days as we find ourselves stretched beyond what seems reasonable for one person to handle. Stop looking at the WHOLE and start with the parts. This seems counterintuitive in a world that frequently suggests that not being able “to see the forest for the trees” is a bad thing. The bigger the “frog” the less appealing it is to eat it. The bigger the “elephant” the harder it is to conceive biting it once let alone ingesting the entire thing. When you remove the “impossible” Finish Line that lies ahead you can conceive what IS possible in the tasks to get there.
So why is it simply not this easy? What stands in the way of doing?
Procrastination! How many times do we put off what we can do today to tomorrow? All the time. Procrastination can be a matter of lack of will or lack of skill. Procrastination of will is putting something off simply because you don’t want to do the task. The task has negative emotions attached to it that prevent us from wanting to do it. Procrastination of skill is putting something off because you do not have the skills to do the task. This requires more work in learning how before we can actually do the task. The skill needed is the obstacle rather than the incentive to learn something new and complete the task. Procrastination is the enemy of productivity impeding progress.
So how do you overcome?
The solution is to combine the beasts, frogs, and elephants, and consuming both only putting off procrastination itself. Do this by starting the day off with your “Key 3” priorities. What are the 3 things you want to accomplish in this day? Name them and identify them as your “Key 3” priorities by putting them at the top of your list. Now DO them! What will come between naming and doing? Your “Monkey Brain” will want to divert to less demanding tasks or more enjoyable tasks however you have set your “Key 3” and that is what you must focus on and “sit with” until complete.
This all seems so simple if only we were robots that could just type in the “Key 3” and complete. We are human and with that comes the complication of having emotions. Emotions that tell us something is too hard and can create discomfort in our mind and body. We cannot allow our emotions to determine our actions. We exercise self-control in many “common sense” areas of our life where our emotions would have us acting irrational and therefore we can certainly control those emotions over lesser things.
We know that there is great discomfort in reaching for goals that are outside of our norm. I am reminded of how it feels when you start a running program. Every time you run your mind is telling you to stop again and again and again. But you don’t, you keep running. Eventually, the body and the mind become comfortable with the activity and it becomes the new norm. When you start a diet, your body immediately fights your effort with cravings for foods you are limiting. Staying the course in avoiding those foods and cravings gets you to the goal you have set for a healthier life…but not without effort. By stating the “Key 3” and being relentless to ignore the distractions that take us away from the priorities we have set we can accomplish our goals both small and large.
Creating pleasant distractions, like music that provides a backdrop to focus, can help us stay on track. Put yourself on your calendar. Setting the time on your calendar makes you accountable to the priorities that you have set. Combine the two by inviting others to join you in completing the task can provide a pleasant distraction from the norm as well as the extra accountability to stay on task for the sake of those that you have committed time.
Last I offer the one tried and true thing that works…take a break. Yes, this is completely counterintuitive to what we have explored in eating the frog or the elephant one bite at a time but it works. When you walk away for a few minutes, an hour, or a weekend you will always find that those “Key 3” priorities come into focus. It seems counterintuitive at the time as “powering through” has its place and time however putting space between the intensity of the tasks at hand can bring more clarity and a renewed energy.
Eat your frogs, take bites out of the elephant but don’t forget to take the time to smell the roses.
Life as I live it – L.