You may have noticed I have not been posting as frequently in the last few months. For those of you who follow me on social media I have been much less active. I have gotten enough nudges from people that I thought it was time to let you know what was happening and let you know that while I have been missing I have by no means checked out. In fact I have really missed writing and engaging with you.
Since February I have been challenged by a health issue. I am clearly moving in the right direction, but I do not know how long it will take to get back to 100%. My new mantra is “be the tortoise”. This has slowed me way down so I might as well embrace this new pace! Besides, what I have lost in terms of energy temporarily, I am hopefully gaining in wisdom permanently. Our circumstances can always provide a great access to learning the lessons we have resisted learning.
In the spirit of not wasting the learning opportunity of a breakdown here are a few of the lessons life has been teaching me lately. My experience reminds me of a wise saying: “if you know but you don’t do then you don’t know”. Hopefully these lessons will finally stick!
Focus is Essential to Managing and Leveraging Our Energy
When we have unbounded energy it is much easier to live in the illusion called we can do it all. My energy level has been very unpredictable from day to day and week to week. So I have had to choose more carefully what I will and will not do. As a result I have had to create a VERY short list of commitments and stick to them. At times it has been a list of just one thing. I have also had to change some of my habits and preferred ways of doing things because I have not had the stamina to keep my commitments the way I have typically done it in the past. I have had to learn to ask myself often, is what I am about to do really necessary and does it serve what matters most right now?
I got to experience in technicolor the incredible pull to do “business/life as usual”. I have been all too frequently reminded of the cost of not resisting that urge. Yet I am grateful for those reminders actually because unless the cost of “business/life as usual” seem bigger than the payoff of doing what is natural and comfortable change is a lot harder.
Questions are a great way to help us be mindful. These questions have helped me to consciously choose how I am investing my energy day to day and moment to moment. The results in my life have actually been amazing. I have been far more present. And I have a renewed sense of optimism about what I will be able to accomplish when I am 100% again, not despite this illness, but rather because the lesson it taught me. In some areas I am actually making more progress because despite the circumstances I have been so focused.
Don’t Just Say No, Choose No
I have realized just how hard it is to say no when you would prefer to say yes. For the first few weeks I was just putting things off as much as possible thinking I’d get to it when I was well believing that was just around the corner. I was resisting (more like kicking and screaming actually) the idea that I needed to scale back my commitments to the outside world so I could focus on what should be every one of our primary commitments – our well being. Even the thought of taking things off of my plate made me very unhappy and uncomfortable.
At first explaining I was sick to a select few gave me freedom, but that feeling was temporary because on the other end was an ever increasing to do list that just added to my anxiety. Then I had that aha moment. I took an honest look and realized way too many things on that list did not have anything to do with my core commitments. As a highly capable professional I was startled by just how blind I was to something so fundamental to my success. This is something I thought I knew and even coach people about, but was not doing for myself.
This has taken my understanding of what it means and what it takes to choose based on your commitments rather than based on your circumstances to a whole new level. One things that has become abundantly clear to me is just how important it is to accept your circumstances FIRST. Saying no because of your circumstances feeds the experience of being victimized by those circumstances. The same is true with our fears. Until you accept your current circumstances (and/or fears) it is incredibly difficult to choose based on your commitments. What feels “right” or natural may pull us to make choices contrary to our commitments. For far too many of us saying no feels wrong and that gets in our way of choosing no.
Choosing based on your commitments is an access to our real power. It not only affects our own sense of our power, it also affects how we occur to others. Saying no as an act of survival costs us our power. Choosing no in service of our commitments fortifies our power and propels us forward to accomplish what truly matters most to us.