What’s one thing you could do to make your life better?
Last week I had a realization.
I had been avoiding getting outside and moving in the woods during the day—one of my favorite activities—because I thought it was going to distract me from getting my work done.
I’d be losing time!
But I decided to start getting up early and going out anyway, and when I did, what I realized was this: I was more focused when I was back at the computer. I wasn’t checking Facebook or my email as often.
Whatever time I “lost” moving out there was easily offset by my productivity gains.
And of course, that time wasn’t “lost” at all. Moving in the woods is a freaking blast. I feel great—calm, focused, energized—for the rest of the day whenever I get out there.
On Tuesday, I went out twice. The second time, in a rainstorm. I got all my work done in a focused and productive way. I checked Facebook… twice, for maybe 15 minutes total?
I was taking a risk by choosing to spend more time in the woods instead of at the computer—at least, that’s how it felt.
That (perceived) risk was the possibility that going out would just suck even more time out of my day—time I didn’t think I could spare, because I was already feeling unproductive every time I sat down at the computer.
The worst case was that this perceived risk would come true. I would have wasted time I could have spent trying to work. I would have been just as unproductive as I worried I might be when I did get back to the computer.
The best case? I would feel great, and I’d be more focused when I did get back to work.
Thankfully, the best case is what happened.
I could go on about the benefits of moving outdoors, and there are plenty, but instead I’ll just pose you a question:
What’s one thing you could do right now that would make your life better? Make it easier, simpler, more enjoyable?
And what’s stopping you from making that change?
Often, the catalysts to powerful change are hiding in plain sight. They’re hiding behind our fear, or a sense of guilt or denial about what might be possible if we’re willing to shake up our routine, get out of our comfort zones, and question our assumptions.
Okay. Let’s revisit the two questions I posed a moment ago, and expand our line of inquiry a little bit.
Now that you’ve had a chance to chew on the concept a little, go ahead and ask yourself these three questions:
What’s one thing I could change to make my life more enjoyable—less busy, less stressful, less complicated?
What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen if I were to implement that change?
How likely is that worst-case scenario to actually happen?
Here’s where the magic starts to happen. Because chances are good that:
i) The worst case isn’t that bad.
ii) The worst case is pretty unlikely.
If your worst case isn’t that bad, and it’s also unlikely, then making that one change is probably worth the risk, right?
Now ask yourself one final question:
What’s blocking me from making this change?
Here’s where we get into the meat of things, so be really honest with yourself on this one.
Often the things we *think* are blockers aren’t really blockers—they’re fake blockers, excuses that are obscuring the true blockers.
(By the way, the biggest fake blocker? “I don’t have the time for that.”)
What was blocking me from going out into the woods was guilt and fear. Guilt about the possibility that I’d be “getting away with” a) taking time away from work to enjoy myself and b) still being even more productive at work! Who deserves a win-win like that?
We all do.
The problem with this kind of thinking—the guilty sense that you’re getting away with something in a scenario like this—is that there’s absolutely no one else who’s being negatively affected. All that guilt is going right back to… you.
And the fear? That’s fear that the worst case is going to come to pass, the one that probably isn’t as bad or as likely as you think.
This simple process can help you demystify what’s blocking you, and perhaps make some breakthroughs that will have you scratching your head, wondering why you didn’t make them earlier.
You know what they say: If you don’t feel like you have 10 minutes to meditate/read a book/run in the woods, you need to spend 1 hour meditating/reading a book/running in the woods…
Is it your day job? Your role as a family member? Is it your place in your community, or your cover band, or your co-ed bowling team?
You probably have many jobs, and I bet they’re for the most part good, productive, salutary things to do with your time.
But your primary job? Your primary job is to take care of yourself.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re thinking. But hold up. I don’t mean “taking care of yourself” in some Ayn Rand, screw-everyone-else kind of way.
“Your primary job is to take care of yourself” doesn’t mean working on things other than yourself is unimportant. Of course not. There must be a balance between inner and outer work, between optimizing your inner life and serving your community and your sphere of influence.
But let’s assume for a moment that your primary job is to do the work of becoming a functional, aware, human person.
This is not a revolutionary idea: get to know yourself, integrate yourself, get your own shit together so that you can be of service to the world.
And there are many, many ways to carry out that work, many tools and strategies at your disposal, whether it’s meditation, or poetry, or a movement practice, or raw macrobiotic smoothie making.
Frankly, life’s just better when you’re getting it together. Embrace that role.
Okay, so, your job is to work on yourself. If you’re still with me on this point, then let’s pose a second question:
What’s the job of the world?
I’ll tell you. The job of the worldis to do the other 23,091,284,013,203,948,320 things that aren’t you working on yourself. So of course the world is going to judge you harshly for doing your job.
Because the world is composed of an insanely large number of things that aren’t you working on yourself, naturally the world is going to be at odds with this thing that is you working on yourself.
As a result, it shouldn’t surprise you that at just about every turn, the world presents you with reasons, implicit or explicit, that you’re not doing a good job. Or that you’re doing the wrong job. Or both.
So yes, you’re doing a terrible job at all those things the world is telling you you should be doing—the expectations, the pressures, expectations, ideals—all the things that make it through the lens and filter through which you see the world and make sense of it.
Please, adjust that lens so you can more clearly see and process what the world is asking of you. And use that filter the best you can to stem the flow of demands the world’s placing on you.
Then, make a good effort to answer some of the world’s expectations and match some of its ideals.
But at some point you have to accept something:
The world will never be satisfied with your work.
Because even if you cross off a handful of the world’s demands, there’s still going to be roughly 23,091,284,013,203,948,315 demands left.
Inside’s a heart of summer soul Don’t let them throw it away ‘Cause inside’s something solid gold so don’t let them throw it away Words they mean nothing so you can’t hurt me I said words they mean nothing So you can’t stop me
Words. We’re surrounded by them. You’re reading some right now.
Words and language are the foundation of story. They are a key element in constructing our reality and our shared human experience.
But they can also get in the way. They can overload us, and lead us astray.
Today, I invite you to get away from words a little. To step away from story, from evaluation and analysis, and move toward being in your body and the parts of your brain not occupied by language. To make some time and space where you can be word-free.
Today, I invite you to embrace wordlessness.
To push the words aside a little bit, and give in to sensing and feeling, to appreciating sounds and shapes and sensory inputs and outputs without ascribing a language meaning to them.
So try one or more of these things today, and see what emerges:
For an hour, as you go about your day, resist the urge to read anything, whether it’s on a device or in a magazine or book. Notice how hard it is to avoid words!
Use your body’s word-producing abilities to create non-word, non-language sounds. Hum, babble, whatever, as long as you’re not trying to form a coherent, recognizable language.
Be with someone you love and decide you won’t speak for a little while—maybe just 10 minutes to start.
Find a quiet spot where you can sit or lie comfortably, and close your eyes. Meditate, and notice when your thoughts start to take the form of words. Then notice what parts of your body are engaged as you form these word-thoughts. You may find that your soft palate and tongue in particular are involved. Intentionally relax these parts of your mouth. Every thought is accompanied by some sort of action in the body, and this is true with language too: when you form words in your mind, even if you don’t speak them out loud, your body is participating as well—even if it’s in the most subtle way.
Finally, introduce wordlessness even more deliberately into your existing practices, whether meditation, or a movement practice of some kind, or just doing the dishes. You can use some of the ideas above to help with this.
Go find the words. Go find the crevices in your life where they’re hiding. Weed them out, give them some air, then nudge them to the side.
Don’t fight the words when they try to stick around—they will—but just create some space, some opportunity, for wordlessness to also take part.
Then see what fills that space you create, even if it’s a small one.
You might be pleasantly surprised once you make it clear to The Words that they don’t rule your day, or your body, or your mind.
Want to explore more ways to get back to your sensing, moving, feeling self? Get in touch.