By: Lynn Carnes
Do you ever start your day with great intentions and before 9:00 am, it’s nothing but putting out fires? Ok, don’t laugh. It might very well be every day that the distractions, texts, phone calls, and bad news seduce you away from doing the great work you had (operative word HAD here) planned for the day.
Look, your job requires you to be responsive. When an important client calls or something breaks, you want to be able to handle it. But are you handling it with a frustrated, anxious mindset or a receptive and prepared mindset?
Beating yourself up for not exercising this morning? Ripples of that thought are echoing in your voice when you answer the phone.
Worrying about how you are going to prepare for that presentation or agonizing over what to do about the team member who’s suddenly performing below par? Your anxiety surrounds your very being – and covering it up just telegraphs that you are covering something up.
Whatever your mindset at these moments of truth, like it or not, it’s leaking into your interactions.
Where does this mindset come from? And how do you change it?
Racing into a busy day seems like the best answer – after all, it feels smart to get to work when there is a pile of work to be done.
However, racing into the day just creates a racing mindset – and when have you ever had a great performance when your mind was racing?
Recognizing this issue, for many years, I meditated most mornings. I also followed a pretty regimented routine to get out of bed, turn on the news, stretch, do several rounds of sun salutations, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, make my tea and THEN meditate. Only after doing all of this did I start my day.
The problem was this: many of those days would still get away from me. If I were to divide my time spent between being reactive and responsive, it skewed heavily towards the reactive .
So I took a look at my daily architecture, focusing most carefully on the morning routine.
Why the morning routine? This is where I could stack the deck in my favor.
It’s one of those lessons I’ve learned from water skiing. In a lesson I will always remember, Corey Vaughn was in the boat coaching, and he was really focusing on my “gate”. The gate happens in the first few seconds of the 20 seconds in the course. I expressed some annoyance at working so hard on something that seemed so basic.
Here’s what he said to me: “Your gate is the place where you have the most control, and where you can repeat the same process every single time to set yourself up for success. Once you turn in for the first buoy, all hell can break loose. A good gate can make up for a lot of errors in the course.”
And danged if he wasn’t right. A good gate has helped me more in the course than any single other area of focus. The same principle applies to my day.
So what would a “good gate” look like in the morning?
My usual morning routine had a toxic component that involved a habit of over 20 years: watching the news before I did anything else.
That external input influenced my mood in so many ways. It certainly diluted my ability to capture insights gained from “sleeping on it” and it simply set me up to be frustrated more often than not.
So I tried an experiment: I meditated and journaled FIRST and then did my stretching. What a huge difference it made. I was able to set my intention for the day and get clear on what I would need to DO and how I would need to BE before having the talking heads set the conditions for my day.
I also just got much more intentional about creating a daily architecture that set me up for success. No more allowing my day to run me; with a solid framework, I have become much, much more productive. Plus my inner experience is much more calm and centered.
What is your daily architecture? Where have you allowed external inputs to influence your internal state of being? In what ways is your internal state of being serving you. And where is your mindset getting in your way?
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_mikerogal'>mikerogal / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
In order to help you stack the deck in your favor, I’ve built this “Daily Architecture Tool.” It’s a fairly quick review of your routines with suggestions that develop your internal locus of control. My clients have found this practice hugely helpful and I hope you do to.
Let me know how it goes for you!
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According to this “life weeks” chart, I have a little over ¼ of my allotment of weeks left in this lifetime. If you do the reverse math, you will work out that I will be 60 next year. As much as I would like to deny it, I’ve got limited time left on this Earth.
So do you.
One of my teachers once said to me “Don’t waste my time,” in response to my stubbornness to do one of my assignments. Seen through my eyes, I thought, “What the hell. I’m paying you good money!” Seen through the teacher’s eyes, it was simple. He would not work with anyone who was not willing to show up. Yes, he was getting paid. But his work was helping me reclaim my life, and if I wasn’t willing to show up, why should he?
This awareness was refined even more when I heard a venture capitalist say “Losing money doesn’t bother me. Losing money is part of my job. What bothers me is for someone to waste my time.” Now that’s a different way to think about money. It’s so easy to think of everything of value as tied to money.
Bringing that awareness to the forefront has all kinds of consequences. My first thought is “Surely that timeline is wrong. I feel young and vital and healthy. Maybe if I eat better, exercise more and be really, really careful, I can cheat death.” The truth is that 4000 weeks is not guaranteed – not even close. There are a lot of ways to exit this life.
So, yes, I can bury myself in a big ole Texas-sized pile of denial. But is that useful?
It seems more useful to appreciate what I have and count every moment as precious. This awareness sharpens my focus.
Seen through the eyes of reality, time becomes much more valuable than money.
Do I really want to let myself get sucked into giant time wasters? What about saying yes to things I really don’t want to do? How much power do I want to give other people over my calendar? What happens to my everyday priorities when I am aware of the sand running through the hourglass?
Practically speaking, it’s made me change several things. First, I’ve quit giving so much attention to the news. Instead of turning on the TV first thing in the morning, I start with setting my mindset for the day. Absolutely no inputs from email, text, social media or the news until my framing for the day has been established. Every day, that involves going into deep meditation. Many days, it involves a creative burst to capture insights and problem solving pouring out of my rested brain.
Second, I’ve become much more likely to say no to things I either don’t want to do or can’t add real value to. Sorry if you are one of those people who has heard that message. Now you know why.
Third, it’s sharpened my focus on my power to choose my response to circumstances out of my control (which I’m learning more and more is almost everything.)
My response is the only place where I have real power.
Gratitude becomes necessary, as fundamental as breath. Love becomes the sweet nectar of life. Presence is the true gift.
Where in your life are you “wasting time?” In what ways do you make money the most valuable thing you have? Where do you give your power to outside circumstances, reacting from your habitual patterns instead of from your true core? What gifts are you here to share? How many weeks do you still have left to offer those gifts? What are you going to do about it?
I’m still working on it. Will be for the rest of my 2050 weeks. Or days.
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