My father used to tell me that one of the happiest days in his life was the day he stopped caring what others thought of him and focused instead of just being the best he could be so as to keep his family happy and safe. These comments were made during his boomer equivalent years (aged 50-60); at that point, he had already proven his ability to provide well for his family and to live a lifestyle that suited the personalities of both him and my mother. “How could you not care what others think of you?” I would say. “That’s bulls…t!”
As I approach another birthday in the decade of the “big 50”, I am finally starting to see the logic in these words. As a boomer with a successful career history who is going through a transitional journey, I am re-thinking the need for me to accomplish some of the goals that I set out for myself when I was 24 years old and a freshly minted MBA. Achievement of tough goals remains exciting…they just need to take form in a new way that blends in with my life today, society today and the economy today!
A recent More Magazine article shares similar advice as to the role that our experience plays in our ability to be more realistic. “You get to a point where you realize that a lot of your dreams haven’t come true….and that’s fine. You stop thinking that you have to be the leader in your company. Or you realize you don’t have the perfect family, but you know what? The kids are OK” ….. If you accept that….…you can shake off a lot of stress and angst. Then go outside and admire the stars”
Which would bring us to the next challenge: Being vs. Doing. There are a lot of articles published on this subject recently. So I started to track my calendar, with an eye to uncovering what was actually keeping me busy and likewise, what were the activities that were productive events directly tied in with my personal and transitional goals.
You know as well as I do that the activities were not rightly balanced! Perhaps after reading this, you will join me in making small changes toward a more productive being.
First, I thought about what it will take to allow myself to say that “it is okay to slow down.” The fact that I no longer make lists in the shower with a waterproof marker already proves that I can do this! LOL Yes, I can do 18 things at once; can I ace all eighteen things simultaneously? Is anyone reading this feeling the same way? Let’s drop the guilt on allocating time for thinking. Instead, figure out how best to thrive on the act of being intentional and prioritizing our energies.
When our son was a toddler and I was working full time (read 60 hours weeks in banking), I would express my guilt by baking his favorite cookies …… usually at 11pm at night. When my BFF, Eva, asked me if this was preferable to sleeping or preferable to being awake and in bed with my husband practicing the act of making our next child …… I resolved to change my baking schedule.
However this commitment to slowing down so that I can think smarter still leaves me needing some “quick hits or opportunities for instant gratification”. How do I simplify my life so that I can get more out of it? Bingo : the to – do list. It took me about two hours to consolidate my lists of lists of my lists to be done. In forcing myself to thoughtfully go through the lists, I realized that there was a major opportunity to rework my approach to listing: I differentiated the to do list of tactical day to day programming from the to do list of strategies needed to be formulated. This was empowering. Recognizing that the tactical list can never be completed in a day, I spread the items out over time. This gave me a sense of control as I now felt easier blocking the time needed to do the critical thinking work that relates to the objectives of Being.
Doing or Being. Busy or Productive. The choice is ours. Breathe deep. Small steps lead to big impacts.
Self: Allow yourself to slow down! The cookies will taste better.