We have to make many choices in life. So many sometimes that we end up making choices by default. We choose things out of habit or without thinking about it. Part of our life choice is deciding towards what things we want to direct our attention. We have a limited amount of attention to share so it is no wonder that we allow many things to happen in our lives by default. Doing things by default saves us brain power and energy particularly if the choice is about something that isn’t important to us.
Have you ever considered the things that are important to you and do you consciously direct your attention to those things?
One of the choices we have to make in our life is how we spend our time. Much of our day can be filled with obligations and getting boxes ticked on our to do list. We can fall into the trap of using every moment of our available time to try and get ahead on all the things we have pending on our list of things to do. What drives us to do this are the many things that we see around us that need to be attended to, that we think are vital to be done if only we had the time.
This use of time creates a negative situation for us because though we may find that we have achieved some of the things on our list, this is ultimately not what will be satisfying to our souls. It’s important for us to develop a habit or “practice” of nourishing our souls as well as making progress on our lists. To do this, we have to approach the problem from two different directions.
- Make time for self
- Do not worry about the undone
The first and most important focus has to be a realisation or recognition that we are important enough to prioritise our own needs over the needs of everyone else. It is not that we must meet every single one of our needs every single day but we must have at least a sliver of time carved out where we can focus on ourselves. Even if we live demanding lives, we have to find time to go to the toilet and eat food. It may be that these are the only times we have available but even a small space of 10 minutes can make a big difference to our well being and ability to cope with what life throws at us.
The other focus is really an admonition to unfocus. Many people focus intently on all the things that need to be done around the house, at work or elsewhere. There is a fundamental disconnect between what we perceive to be required and what is possible. We must accept that sometimes that load of laundry will not get done or that corner of the room will need to remain untidy. We must not be perfectionists and slaves to the material matters of our lives. Your soul and body are more important than a pile of paper on a desk. Yes, we do need to meet our most urgent obligations – feed our children, pay our bills, etc but we must prioritise these things and not allow those that are not urgent or vital to over-run us and dictate the flow of our lives. This can be difficult for many people because we all see the beautiful pictures of perfect homes and believe that we will only be happy when we achieve this. Spend five minutes appreciating the colour of a beautiful flower or take a couple of really deep breaths in a quiet place to reconnect with your body and acknowledge that you are not a machine.
There is an important lesson in this problem. Happiness is not truly derived from our surroundings and possessions. Yes, a clean and beautiful environment is lovely and conducive to relaxation and calm. However, once you have such an environment, what comes next? The environment alone is not where we find our true peace. True peace and happiness comes from within us. We must make peace with the noise and voices within our souls and minds. Once we have a calm and relaxing “internal environment” then we greatly improve our ability to deal with our external environment. We do not realise this connection and dependency and therefore blame ourselves as inadequate or incompetent when we are not able to get everything done. We must realise that there is actually a limit to what we can achieve in a single day and once we realise this, we are in a better position to focus on prioritising the things that we really need to do. Our comfort with the “undone” is vital to being able to be effective and make progress on all the important tasks facing us in their own time.