November 11, 2021

A Week Too Far? Try This

Last month you’d have seen me laughing out loud while walking to and from my garden office (My International ShedQuarters).

I was laughing, because I must have looked insane…Hobbling, bent over, shuffling slowly, along our slippery, moss-encrusted paved path.

Why hobbling?
Well, I was bent over with chronic back pain.

Too much stress for too many weeks, you see.
Health, wellbeing and peace of mind all shot to pieces!

Admittedly there were eight solid weeks of stress-creating illness and events.
Starting with our 3-week Florida visit, to be with my dying Dad. And all that followed.

Life does make a mockery of our To-Do List, doesn’t it?

The good part was that I was forced to review my behaviour.
My thinking.
My mindset.

Particularly, while lying on my back, racked with pain.

And here’s what I (re)discovered.
Things I’ve known for decades.
(“Slow Learner, eh?”)

Firstly…There’s so much of what I do that isn’t that important in the long term.
Stuff that wouldn’t be spoken about in any eulogy. So much that doesn’t pass The Wendy Test (that’s Wendy, my definitely-superior-other-half).

The Wendy Test is this question:
“David. Is This of Eternal Consequence?”

Then… There’s so much of what I do that is done to please people (as opposed to serving them). How often must I be reminded that people-pleasing is invariably full of eventual regret?

What’s worse… There’s so much of what I do which fulfils goals and ambitions. (Sounds good, doesn’t it). Except that these ego-stuffed things I pursue are unlikely to ever bring me long term joy, peace and fulfilment.

What’s fascinating about that list above is the phrase So Much”.

Because the fact is…
It’s the “So Much” that chews us up.
Consumes us.
Shreds us.

Whereas the most serene people I’ve ever met…
Focus on “Much Less”.

They have learned the wisdom of selecting what is essential on any given day. Or Hour.
And (quoting author Greg McKeown)… “this allows them to make the highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

So, allow me to share with you just one component of my own ‘Much Less’ that too frequently becomes lost in the noise of my life. But, strangely, is at the centre of any life well-lived.

This isn’t a singular answer to your overwhelming and choking To Do List.
But it is the start of a few distilled habits that allow me to find Peace, Perspective and Wiser Choices, when all around me is screaming “Urgent and Sooo Attractive!”.

I’ll start by sharing with you a morning ritual I find calming, nourishing.
A ritual which gives perspective – and decision-making capability – to the whole of my day.
A ritual born from the regret of pursuing years of wasted activity and short-term, shallow ambition.
A ritual which allows me to ruthlessly filter out all of those distractions and interruptions which sing to me – like sirens – until satisfied sleep takes me to the night.

I’ve learned to start my morning’s thinking away from my PC or laptop.
Determinedly, away from my screaming emails.

I snuggle down with some spiritual literature. ‘Wisdom Literature’ as some might call it.
Or watch a presentation on a subject that is deep, rich, infinitely meaningful.
And I allow this time – perhaps only 15 to 30 minutes – to fill my soul.

What I spend time drinking in is not the latest proclamation from this year’s proclaimed guru.

Rather, I bathe in the themes, ideas and wisdom born of decades, generations and centuries of observed and recorded human behaviour.

The ‘Me’ I take into my morning’s conversations (with clients or our team) is shaped by those precious minutes.

When I get sloppy with this ritual, here’s what I find…
My precious hours are dissolved by considering every distraction dangled in front of my face. Typically, other people’s priorities.
It’s this sloppiness that dissolves the hours, days and weeks of my life.
Like dew disappearing in the face of the morning sun.

At times like this, I’m haunted by this beautiful, piercing question from poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me. What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

(And when I forget this question, you’ll probably find me: a-little-old-laughing-at-himself-man, hobbling along his garden path; weighed down by the overwhelming list of things-that-have-to-be-done that he’s fallen for.)