“I would work out regularly and get in shape, but…”
“I’d love to get together with friends more often, but…”
“I want to have more family fun together, but…”
“I really need more “R&R” just for myself, but…”
Many of us start off the new year with the best of intentions. We want to live healthier and happier, and yet, there always seems to be some big BUT getting in the way. Don’t you just hate that!
And the biggest BUT of all, the one I hear over and over again in my work with busy families is: “…but I don’t have the time.” Seems like there’s just never enough time. Too many other demands – work, kids, finances, errands, booster club, car repairs, stubbed my toe, SOMETHING always gets in the way. There’s just never enough time.
Pause. Breathe. And consider.
What Are You Doing?
What are you doing with your time? What are you doing today? Right now? (Reading this article – good for you – stay with it!)
Too often we are running around on the hamster wheel of life, reacting to the next demand or crisis. We live life without thinking, without conscious awareness about what’s really important, what matters most to us. We trudge on, too often on auto-pilot and mindlessly multi-tasking. We keep trying to put out fires, usually trying to meet our kid’s / boss’s / spouse’s / fill-in-the blank’s needs – everyone’s except our own.
We keep trying to finish our “To Do” lists. Somehow we never seem to catch up. We never get that list completed. There’s always more to add to the list.
So, let us reflect, mindfully and purposefully: What are you doing with your time? Or, as poet Mary Oliver beautifully prods us, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
What are the things in life that are most important to you? Make a quick short list of what matters most to you right now, at this very point in your life. What brings you joy? When do you feel most fulfilled or alive? What replenishes or rejuvenates you?
What would you like a little bit more of in your life (let’s say, 3 hours a week) – knowing that if you had or did that, your quality of life would be significantly enhanced?
Now ask yourself the most important question of all: “Why?”
Why is that so important to you right now? And when you answer that why question, ask it again, “Why does that matter so much to you?” And then ask yourself one more time, “Why is that important to you?”
When you get in touch with your most important values, you turn on the intrinsic motivation you need to create and maintain healthy daily habits. As Jason Frenn once taught me years ago: when your WHY is bigger than your BUT, then you will succeed. Then you will gain traction towards your goals. Then you will be empowered to step into what I call Aligned Action. That is, you’ll be able to act with more ease and consistency, aligned with your values and with your conscious awareness of what matters most.
The other half of the equation, after pausing to remind ourselves of what matters most, is to practice acceptance. Accept that we are responsible for our time choices. It’s not that we don’t “have” the time – as if we’re waiting for someone to give it to us. It’s that we don’t choose to take the time to do what we say matters most.
When we accept that responsibility, we become empowered to make real differences. Whatever circumstances arise, whatever challenges, stresses, or obstacles, we always have a choice for how to respond to them. When we pause to thoughtfully attend to and accept our current circumstances, then we can thoughtfully respond to them, rather than mindlessly react to them.
Along with accepting that we can and do choose how we spend our time – it’s also important to accept our limitations. In any given situation, there are always some things we can control, and some things we can’t control. Remember, what you focus on, grows. So, recognize and accept those things you cannot control right now, and then refocus on what you can.
We all have limitations. We are all inconsistent. We are all perfectly imperfect. And we will NOT get everything on the To Do lists done, because they are never done! We can fight this reality, or make peace with it. Let’s move on to what you can do, the choices you do have, right now.
And believe me, that absolutely includes having 3 hours every week to do what makes you happy. There are 168 hours in the week. If you take 3 for yourself, and only leave the other 165 hours for everyone and everything else, I promise the world will not fall apart. The time is now. The choice is yours.
It’s a new year. It’s a new day. Every day! We can always begin again. With clear intentions – recognizing the BUTs in our lives, and remembering the WHYs that matter more – we can take one concrete, realistic step in the direction of our aspirations. And then we take another.
Onward we go, with grace and gratitude for the gift of today.
Peter Montminy, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, loving husband and dad. He invites you to join in an ongoing conversation that seeks to restore sanity to humanity – one child at a time. Join us at www.AMindfulVillage.com.