Don’t Rush Ahead

Do you remember going for walks or bike rides with your family as a kid? Were you the one who always went as far as you possibly could because you were just too excited to hold back? Did your parents have to tell you to stop and wait for them to catch up, to not go any farther than they could see?

I don’t think I really did that when I was a kid. I have always been really cautious when it comes to things like that. But I do think I take a similar approach to other things in my adult life.

I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared. And, if at all possible, I want to get ahead. I want to feel like I’m buying myself extra time by skipping steps or getting things done faster now so I can have a buffer later. And I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time doing things that I don’t need to be doing.

I don’t like waiting. I don’t like doing the foundational work that feels like nothing at all. I want to get to the big, fun, challenging, heart-of-the-work things that produce results and give me something to show for all my work.

I have a bad habit of cheating myself out of my stretching before and after my workouts. I do stretch some, but not nearly as much as I should. And, of course, I never realize it until the next day when my muscles are sore and tight because I didn’t take the time to stretch them properly.

The problem is that I don’t give stretching its due. It feels useless. I have limited time allotted for working out, and I don’t want to “waste” it on stretching when I could otherwise be doing cardio or strength training- things that make my heart beat harder or strain my muscles in ways that I can feel in a more tangible way right then in the moment.

When I was in school, I always loved the professors who gave out course calendars and detailed rubrics for projects ahead of time. I loved knowing what was coming and what was expected of me. It allowed me to plan out my time and energy efficiently. In courses where I didn’t have a clear view of what came next, I found myself wondering what laid ahead.

And I’m finding myself in that place once again. I started a writing course a couple weeks ago, and I’m having a really (REALLY) hard time not rushing ahead. I did the prewriting exercises faster than the standard course timeline laid it out, but now I’m finding myself itching to look at material I’m not slated to encounter for a few more weeks yet. And I really don’t need it until then. But this little part of me just wants to know it all. To be prepared. To avoid surprises.

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize I do that with all of life. I want to avoid big surprises. I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared.

But life’s unpredictable. And if I run ahead, I might encounter something sooner than I’m meant to, and I might not be prepared to handle it because I didn’t let the waiting do its work. If I skip steps in my writing, I can most likely come back to them later. If I forget to stretch, I’ll be sore the next day, but I’ll survive just fine. But if I skip steps or rush ahead in life, I might make wrong turns, poor and uninformed decisions, and find myself ill-equipped to handle obstacles because I didn’t let my character grow before plowing forward. And if I knew everything all at once, I would certainly get overwhelmed.

I know it’s important to take things one step at a time. The steps exist for a reason– they make the journey easier, allowing me to tackle just one at a time instead of the whole staircase. I just sometimes need the reminder to not skip steps and try to rush ahead without doing the important foundational work first.

So today I’m reminding myself: Take life one step at a time. Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip steps just because you can’t see why they’re important right now.

 

Do you tend to run ahead? Do you have any tips for taking things one step at a time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Keep Your Eye On Your Why

img_0544“Keep your eye on your why.” It was the second-to-last step in a set of helpful tidbits for people looking to minimize, but it was the one that stuck with me the most. Maybe because it rhymed, so I found it catchy. Maybe because it’s something I struggle with.

In pursuing my goals, both big and small, I sometimes forget what motivated me to start in the first place. And if I’m not careful, this lack of self-awareness will allow me to give up. I wonder if something is even worth my time and effort if I don’t remember why I started doing it in the first place.

Probably not.

If I want to stay motivated enough to see something through to the end, I have to remember why I’m doing it. I have to buy into the idea hook, line, and sinker. I can’t be one foot in and one foot out. It’s go big or go home, baby.

In other words, I need to keep my eye on my “why.”

Why am I pursuing the things that I’m pursuing?

Why am I saying “no” to some things and “yes” to others?

I can’t do it all. I have to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others in order to maintain some shred of my sanity and make sure I get some sleep. There are many, many things I could choose to pour my time and energy into, but only so many of them are good uses of those limited resources. Only a small fraction of them bring me joy and benefit the world around me.

And those are the things I want to pursue. That’s how I make my decisions. I ask what’s most important to me, what I really want to define my life.

I want to be known for my love.

And, considering that, I think about how to make decisions that reflect my purpose. I choose things that support that goal and align with my personality and gifts. In order to make the most of my time and efforts, it only seems logical to choose things I’m interested in, have an aptitude for, and things that will support my larger ambitions. I don’t want to waste my time doing things I’m going to give up on for lack of interest, get burned out doing because I wasn’t the right fit, or doing things that keep me stagnant.

Having the right motivation is key. If we don’t know why we’re getting up early to workout, we’re more likely to hit the snooze button instead of throwing off the covers and breaking a sweat. If we forget why we’re pinching pennies and budgeting, we’ll probably be less committed and find ourselves still impulse buying.

We need to remember why we do what we do.

I’ve found that having reminders around me is extremely necessary to living a life of purpose. I painted a sign over the summer with the word “beloved” on it that serves as a reminder in my house. I also have a beautiful necklace from my friend’s company She of Noble Character that says “beloved” on it and allows me to walk around with a constant reminder of who I am and how I’m called to live.

Remembering that I am loved and am called to be love in the world is my why. And I’m trying really hard to keep my eye on it.

 

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you have a big, overarching goal for your life that you filter decisions through? How do you remind yourself what your purpose is? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Further reading:

A Guide to Let Go of Your Perfectly Good Things by Zoë Kim, featured on Becoming Minimalist

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Baby Steps to A Better You

What is it about adulthood that makes it shameful to take baby steps? Why do we feel the need to try to conquer things in leaps and bounds?

I personally don’t think trying to tackle an obstacle or reach a goal with giant-sized steps works.

Large tasks are daunting. Big obstacles are frightening. Making significant changes is difficult.

But breaking tasks and goals down into smaller steps can help us better reach them. It makes them more manageable, more attainable. And doesn’t everyone want that?

It’s easy to jump into something new and quickly get carried away with wanting to make dozens of changes right off the bat. But that type of change is hard to sustain. With so many plates spinning at once, we’re likely to not be able to keep any of them going because our focus is too divided.

Instead, if we focus on tackling one area at a time, we can take smaller steps toward our larger goal.

I want to suggest some small steps you (and I) can take today toward becoming better versions of ourselves. In the post-New Year’s season, many people give up on unrealistic resolutions, but these are far more attainable!

  1. Sleep more. Many of us don’t get enough sleep. Some people need more than others, but chances are we all could use more. Try adding just an extra 30 minutes.
  2. Eat more veggies. Whatever else you fill your plate up with is up to you. Just add some veggies. Put some on top of your pizza, sandwich, or pasta. Have a side salad. Throw some in your scrambled eggs or omelet.
  3. Move more. Organized exercise and sports are great, but some people’s schedules don’t allow much time for them. If trying to rearrange everything on your calendar is too daunting, simply try to move more in your everyday life. Get up from your desk every hour for a little break (and come back more refreshed!), walk around during a TV commercial, take the stairs, or park farther away from the grocery store.
  4. Relax. I’m not talking about the sit-on-the-couch-all-day kind of laziness. I’m talking about taking a break from the helter-skelter chaos of everyday life just to breathe for a minute.
  5. Put the phone down. Talk to people face-to-face without interruptions. Take a screen break for an hour or two. Give the people and the world around you your full attention.
  6. Drink more water. Everything is especially dry in the winter– the air, our hair, and our skin are just a few. Drink some water with every meal and throughout the day as you get thirsty. I find that having a water bottle on hand ensures that I keep hydrated throughout the day without having to worry about it.
  7. Watch your spending. Now, I’d love to tell you all to create a budget, get out of debt, and set yourselves up for a solid financial future, but we’re talking baby steps here. Know where you tend to spend the most money and where you might be able to reign it in a little.
  8. Read more. Newspapers, magazine articles, biographies, novels, ebooks, audiobooks… Reading can be very relaxing, and since we’re learning that the light from electronic devices can disrupt our sleep, it can be a good before-bed activity to help us wind down. Novels are good for immersing yourself in a story other than your own, and nonfiction books are good for learning new things.
  9. Smile. Find joy. Focus on the happy. Laugh. Be grateful. It’s really hard to be grumpy when you’re giving thanks for your blessings. And it has a positive impact on those around you, so it’s a win-win!
  10. Declutter. Just a little bit. Start small. One closet. One room. One problem area.
  11. Use fewer disposable items. Swap out cloth napkins for paper ones or washable dish rags for paper towels. Pack lunches in reusable containers instead of sandwich baggies. Bring your own tote bags to the grocery store.
  12. Do something for someone else. Volunteer for a charity, donate to a non-profit, bring a meal to a family with a new baby or sick family member, shovel a neighbor’s driveway, or even just hold a door open.

 

What do you think of my baby steps? Are there any you would add? Are there some you’re going to try? Let me know what you think in the comments below.