Thus, a decision is not a real decision until it is a must for you, until you feel it on your nerve endings and it effects you at a cellular level, until you are compelled to take action. Once your shoulds have turned into musts, then you have made a real decision. ~ The Minimalists
I have been thinking a lot about my word for the year - BALANCE. That word is not one that I sought out. It is one that I ran from. I have been pretty good at dodging it for some time. But not being a very good runner, it caught up with me, grabbed me and hugged me until I had to hug it back.
On a piece of paper, I wrote
I keep going back to my image for this year, courtesy of the Focusing on Life weekly challenge that I am doing.
My husband and I were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime trip to San Francisco and Sonoma in 2008 by my parents. While there my dad wanted to drive over to Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pebble Beach to see the famous golf course. Along the winding 17-mile stretch of road there is a place called Spanish Bay. These stacked rock formations called cairns are found along the shores, built by people who passed by, to show that they were there and to leave a sign to follow. Cairns are piles of rocks purposefully arranged. The intent is to mark a path from those that have traveled that way before. On this windy gray day we stopped to marvel at the way these stones were so marvelously balanced and each built our own cairns to leave behind. What you don't see in this picture is that there were dozens of others similarly placed all along this stretch. We tiptoed carefully to avoid toppling those that were placed before, but it was surprising how sturdy they were, even if they seemed impossibly stacked.
I am glad I found this picture in my archives because it really helps me hone my vision. And maybe at the end of this year, I will have a new cairn to leave behind as a marker that I was there and to leave a trail for those that follow.
I have always been a juggler. I suppose mothers are built for that. I can't bring in the groceries one at a time. I have to find a way to be a pack mule and make one or two trips, tops. I am not one who likes to put away the dishes that I have washed and I can build a tower that would rival any Jenga-Master. But it goes deeper. I am always doing more than one thing at the same time...emailing while painting pendants...watching t.v. with my daughter while filling fundraising orders...cooking dinner while reading a magazine. And that split focus means that sometimes I might get what looks like a lot accomplished, but in reality not every thing is done very well. A master of smoke and mirrors.
So my hope that this year spent on BALANCE will help me see what truly needs my attention and give my full focus while also stripping away those things that just get in the way.
So back to my original question... what does BALANCE look like?
I am reminded of a story by Stephen Covey that perfectly illustrates this point called First Things First.
One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.
As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"
"No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"
"No," the speaker replied, "that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all."
What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these Big Rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all.
This story has me thinking that I need to figure out what the Big Rocks are in my life. These Big Rocks are what is important and valuable to me, what truly matters in my life. I find it so easy to get lost in the minutiae of my daily life that I often forget to take care of these Big Rocks... like being so focused on getting orders done that I realize it is 3 o'clock and I haven't eaten all day except for that cup of coffee I keep warming up...or working so late into the evening that I miss my entire family going to bed without even so much as a 'good night.' But that must change. I have realized for a long time that this is not healthy and productive, but it is so hard to break those habits.
So what are the Big Rocks? Here is a list that I found that I think will be quite helpful to me:
- Career: Are you pursuing your dream career?
- Love: Are you in a relationship with the love of your life?
- Relationships: Are you fostering strong bonds with important people in your life?
- Wealth: Are you financially well?
- Health: Is your health and fitness level in top status?
- Spirituality: Are you attuned with your spiritual source?
Should vs. Must
Another article I read recently from The Minimalists talked about how making a journey starts with a difficult decision, a pivotal point. Taking a journey implies taking action, moving from one place to another, getting ahead and exploring. Procrastination is the opposite. Inaction, putting off, hiding yourself in what is easy. They said, "There is no reward in procrastination." That is so true.
They go on to write that decisions are grouped in two types: intellectual and emotional. An example for me is that intellectually I know I should exercise regularly, but I don't. Why is that? Because I haven't felt it in my gut, I haven't dug down deep enough to know that emotionally I must do this thing. When you hit that pivotal moment in your life, it turns from should (I should watch less t.v.... I should eat more vegetables... I should work less....I should read more) and becomes a must.
They suggest that you make a list - The Must List - and say it out loud. If you insert should instead, it sounds so different, and not as convincing.
"Today is the day that you must decide that things must change," say the Minimalists. "You know intellectually that you’re not happy with how things are in your life. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t want it to be one way, when your actions are the other way. If your actions are not congruent with your desires, then you will never feel happy, never feel fulfilled, never be content."
If I can align my pile of Big Rocks with my Must List, I might actually have a chance to make some relevant change in my life in 2013. BALANCE is something that I ran from in the past, but BALANCE is something I must embrace in my future because the Big Rocks in my life are not falling into place by themselves.
Hey! Look at that. I said, "I must..."
Maybe my Big Rocks are starting to get stacked after all.
What are the Big Rocks in your life? Are you working purposefully to get them in place or have you totally neglected them?
What are your musts? Go ahead and write just one should statement (I should....) in the comments and then change it to a must statement (I must...), side by side. Does that one word make your statement feel any different? Say it aloud and try it on for size. What must happen in your life for this must statement to bring about a fundamental change in your life?