Your Plate

Some mornings, I sit down at my desk to this:

empty-plate

An empty plate is not a bad thing. I can attest to the fact that starting a day or a week with an empty plate can be both invigorating and challenging (particularly for goal oriented people like me). It can be fun to have to really WORK to make things happen in your business and get things moving. On a personal level, having an empty plate for me usually means things are clicking along with my family, our finances, and friendships without much conflict or stress.

Empty plates can also cause me anxiety if they stay empty too long. Here’s where the danger comes for me – when I sit in front of an empty plate too long, I start to put things on it; often without considering if they go together or not. Pretty soon, I end up with this:

fullplate

As I start my week today, my plate looks a lot more like this mis-matched pile of goodness. Lots of great stuff on there to work through. For me today, I’ve got both personal and professional opportunity on my plate. I’ve got big potential changes for our family. I’ve got two huge projects wrapping up at work in the next month and two great opportunities to pitch this week. On top of that, I’ve piled on some extra work by teaching a college class this semester and we’re in the final planning stages of this year’s Jay Bilas Skills Camp. My gravy is dripping off the side!

A full plate can often be overwhelming. I’ve had nights where I wake up at 3am just thinking about everything that needs to be done. I’ve looked at “to do” lists on Monday that seem never-ending and just wanted to procrastinate it away. I have felt the stress of family and financial pressure pushing in all at the same time as the “gravy” of life spills over.

And this is what I’ve learned: The only way to clear the plate is one bite at a time. Furthermore, it is important to enjoy and savor every delicious bite. This week, as I sit here today staring at my plate, I’m going to slowly work through this full plate of responsibility, opportunity, fear, and possibility until it is cleared and I am satisfied that I’ve tasted each task or challenge to the fullest. And I’ll take my roll and wipe up every last drip of gravy that life has poured on top.

Rainy Day Relax

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It’s a Saturday and it is raining.

Normally, I like to get out and about on Saturday – go for a run, hit the farmer’s market, maybe go for a bike ride with the family, do a little yard work. Today is going to be a rainy day relax, and I think I’m just fine with that.

Spring rain in the Southeast is a pretty common thing. It refreshes the soil that has cooled over the winter. It has an amazing ability to make brown things green. It nourishes my lawn and trees so that I can almost see the grass grow. It fills the lakes and streams so that people, animals, and plants can use them and enjoy them. Rain has a rejuvenating purpose for the earth.

Rainy days should have a rejuvenating purpose for us humans as well. I’m sure there are going to be a lot of frustrations today at the little league baseball diamonds from parents suffering through rain outs and some fun times at outdoor events like The Queens Cup might get dampened. Rain should be a reminder to us humans, however, that we need to slow down, sit and relax, and allow that time to re-energize us. Even if you don’t get rain to force you to, it is a good idea to build some ‘margins’ into your week. Allow your mind to clear itself, allow your body to have some waking rest, and spend some time in conversation or just being in the same space with those you care about.

I hope you get some rainy day relax time this weekend or sometime soon. For me, I’ll be getting the view above for a couple of hours today – enjoying a cup of coffee and a couple of books while I look out the front window and watch the rain refresh my grass so I can see it grow. Here’s to a relaxing Saturday.

An Example of Busyness

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It is generally accepted that kids pretty much do what their parents model. This is the reason so many alcoholics had an addict for a parent, why people from broken homes are more likely to divorce, and why very generous, giving people often had parents who modeled philanthropy. That is why it scares me when I see parents modeling an example of busyness for their children.

I have so many friends who answer the question “what’s going on” with “BUSY!” What they usually mean is that their weekdays are filled with the demands of work, coming home to run kids to practices, slamming down some food real quick, running to a church committee meeting, sitting back down at their computer for another 4 hour shift of work, and falling asleep in their chair. Then, of course, they have to follow up that relaxing week by filling their weekend with travel sports, neighborhood events, more church meetings and socials, working on plans for their side business, and more work. I know this to be true because I’ve done it myself.

It is scientific fact that multi-tasking is not physically possible (http://www.livescience.com/37420-multitasking-brain-psychology.html). If you don’t have time to read the whole article, I’ll just pull out the quote that is most relevant here:

“Once you start to make things more complicated, things get messier, and as a result, there’s going to be interference with one or more of the tasks,” Meyer said. “Either you’re going to have to slow down on one of the tasks, or you’re going to start making mistakes.”

This is not only true for driving and talking on the phone. It is also true in our lives. Every time we add another responsibility, club, committee, work assignment, or kid’s activity to our lives it carves out a little bit from our personal and spiritual health, our marriage, our family, and our job. These things are already difficult, but when we take these little bits of time away from them, ‘either you’re going to have to slow down on one of the tasks, or you’re going to start making mistakes.’

What can we do about this? There is a lot of cultural pressure in this area, I know. We can SAY NO and be an example of balance and healthy state of mind for our kids. Yesterday, I was asked to become the Chair of my local chapter of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. This would have been a huge honor, and I was flattered. I have served on the board of the local chapter for 2 years and love the work we do. But I had to SAY NO. I had to say NO because it would have meant at least a couple of more meetings a month into my work week, juggling my already hectic work and travel schedule to make meetings a top priority, and responsibilities to lead a team that would have required additional attention in the evenings and on weekends.

I had to say NO because I’ve been down this road before and I’ve seen the consequences. I’ve seen what happens when I try to start a small business, teach a college class, serve on multiple committees at church, and volunteer for everything my local service organization throws at me. I did that for awhile and I started making mistakes. I started ignoring my marriage, over-extending the financial capabilities of my small business, not focusing on important things at work, and being absent from my kids’ lives. It didn’t take long for those mistakes to catch up to me.

So, I’ve protected my Saturday (see above). I’ve protected it so that I can model quietness, stillness, and aloneness to my kids. We’ll sit around and read, or play outside. Maybe we’ll go to the farmer’s market or on a bike ride. I’ll go for a run completely alone with no phone, no kids, no distractions and reflect on the week and give thanks for the peace. I’m certain my kids won’t miss any opportunities to earn a Division 1 scholarship because we say NO to busyness this weekend, and I hope they’ll grow up to be mindful and focused adults because they have seen me become a better model for them in those important disciplines.

Lessons from Granny

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I don’t see my 88 year old Granny Searby nearly enough, but this past week we spent a few hours with her and I quickly realized that I still have a lot of lessons to learn from Granny. As 2013 comes to a close, here’s the reminders I picked up from her during our visit that I’ll keep close to memory for 2014:

– Slow down…Granny isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, she knows where she’s going and enjoys the getting there.

– Eat just a little each time, but eat several times throughout the day…Granny doesn’t eat a lot at meals, but she takes little snacks throughout the day. Maybe that is why she’s always be thin and fit.

– Exercise a little each time you can…Granny has decided to get a little exercise each time she walks back to her room by walking all the way to the end of the hall and then back to her door before going in – those extra 20-30 feet add up over the course of a week.

– Friends matter…Granny looks as good as I’ve seen her in 5 years and she attributes a lot of it to spending time with the new friends she’s made over the last 6 months at the assisted living center.

– Be thankful…Granny mentioned several times during our time together how thankful she was for the staff, the exercise room, the library, the weekly bingo, the good food. Seemed like she was able to find thanks in the simplest things and it showed on her face.

– Live simply…Granny lives in a small apartment with a living room, kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom. She doesn’t have a lot of ‘things,’ but she told me that she’s got everything she needs and is as satisfied as she can be.

– Live life to the fullest and cherish each breath…Granny has had a tough year, but she has made the most of it and seems happier than ever.

My hope and prayer for 2014 is that I’ll take these lessons and apply them to my own life. I think they are valuable lessons for us all.