17 January 2013

The Big Rocks

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

And that piece of paper has sat there all week. Taunting me. I tried to cover it up with other work, but it keeps floating to the top.

I keep going back to my image for this year, courtesy of the Focusing on Life weekly challenge that I am doing.

And I am reminded of those rocks.

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?

Big Rocks

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?
I think that to make this more visual for myself, I am going to write down these Big Rocks and an intention of what I really must do to make them each real.

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. 

Your turn...

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?


Alice said...

What great food for thought!! I've identified the things that make me put the smaller-mostly easier things in the jar first. It's because the big ones scare the heck out of me, and I'm afraid of mucking it all up. Plus I'm the queen of procrastination, probably for the same reason--fear of failure.

Thanks for the tips on figuring out our big rocks.

Great post, and best of luck finding balance. You are certainly on your way.

Bobbie said...

Erin, your meditation on balance and finding the big rocks in life made me think of something I'd seen on the NPR facebook page a couple of weeks ago. You can check it out here:

You may think it's a bit of a literal interpretation at first, but I thought the guy's comment about knowing the rocks and learning their nearly invisible nooks and crannies so he can fit them together was appropriate for your metaphor as well. Plus, watching what this guy's incredible patience as he builds his stacks is a good reminder that things don't always come together easily!

Cassi Renee said...

That's a beautiful post, Erin. It's such an important thing, to reevaluate our lives at different times. Good luck on finding your balance!

Tracy Statler said...

I LOVE your photo Erin. I think Spanish Bay is one of the most magical places. I got engaged there 16 years ago and was just back there this past summer. The bagpipes at sunset..... I did not know about the rocks! They are a perfect image for your word. Balance looks so different for everyone - but it absolutely starts with the awareness of where you are and where you want to be. You have to be ruthless about getting rid of those things and habits that don't get you closer to where your actions consistently align with your values. That is how I define balance. One step at a time Miss Erin - I know you will get there!

cw whitedogjewelry said...

Erin, this is such a great post. It seems as though you looked deep into my soul and told the world my story. Even before I read your post, I copied the pic with "2013 Balance" and made it my desktop pic. I hope that is OK with you. It will be a constant reminder of what I need to do in 2013. It's one of those things that you keep saying to yourself, and yet it just never happens. This will help me remember that I MUST make changes NOW for a better life.
Thanks so much for your wisdom.
'wishing you all the best in 2013.

Lesley said...

What a great post Erin and as we are sharing the same word this will help me get my Rocks rationalised! I do all those multi- tasking activities too and always wonder how much better I'd do any one of them if I concentrated on them more. I'm especially bad at 'me' time and will always have one eye on something else when I'm supposed to be relaxing. Well today is my birthday and I've made a conscious decision that I will not work today (this is not work this is catching up with my friends)and I will focus solely on me. My initial plans have been scuppered by snow but I'm now having a leisurely brunch and deciding what to do instead - it feels odd but I am determined to succeed in spending the day indulging myself. Glad to be sharing this journey with you.

Shel said...

Erin, This is such a wonderful post! It's funny how 'signs' pop up when we're aware of things and this is another one of those for me this week - thank you! Lori over at Studio Waterstone had a powerful post the other day and a link to a little 'sermon' called breathing room which is almost exactly what you're speaking of here today. here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/awdo7tx
I watched part 1 and 2 and the 3rd part is this coming Sunday w/the last one on the 27th I believe. It touches on what you said about doing so many things at the same time, etc. Hope you get the chance to listen to them - they're quite powerful - just like "balance" and these rocks,....thanks for sharing!

Brandi Hussey said...

Beautiful, Miss Erin, absolutely beautiful. I just love how you can tie together words like this. Individually, the stories are great, but together, they are super powerful.

I'd need more reflection time, but my big rocks would probably be creating, occasional solitude (it's how I recharge and focus), communication, and the relationships in my life with friends and family. I feel pretty solid on most of these, but there's always room for improvement!

Thank you for the inspiration!

AliMc said...

Powerful post Erin! I will now be reminding myself of the difference between must and should just as I remind my kids (constantly) of the difference between want and need :). Rather than "I should be posting on Etsy daily" "I must post on Etsy daily".


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