Alignment with the Fall Race

After Labor Day, many of us shift into high gear. Anticipating a busy Fall, we re-ignite our energy for the months until year’s end. Sometimes, however, despite determination and perhaps an unhealthy fixation on lists and goals, plans go astray.

Not too long ago a weekend turned out differently than what was planned. Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be the perfect combination of necessary tasks and fun events including a neighborhood ice cream social (we were hosts), a Saturday night wedding, house guests for dinner and Sunday overnight, studying for a Teacher Training, a Board meeting in the mountains and preparations for Labor Day travel to Mexico City. This didn’t include house cleaning and laundry, walking the dogs, shopping and cooking some meals. Sound ambitious? We didn’t think so!  Needless to say, the weekend was mainly full of racing from place to place, short on time and completion of any one task.

It’s human nature to overestimate our capacities and underestimate time. The same applies when we travel: we want to see everything and end the day with tired feet. How exhilarating to feel exhausted yet satisfied to have taken advantage of opportunities.  Yet, here’s the rub…before long we experience burn out. The vacation is no longer fun! The big picture about what we truly care about fades in the back- ground. Relationships suffer because there’s little time for them. We return from a trip more exhausted than when we left.

When Senator John McCain passed away recently many accolades focused on his ability to live in the moment! He trusted that he was exactly where he was meant to be. Many also talked about how McCain was always in a hurry, as if in a race. Maybe he was!  Many of us are! Regardless of his crazy schedule, however, McCain excelled at living aligned with his values.  How might we also enjoy a fully engaged life, aligned well?

Here are a few tips for winning the Fall Race while staying true to yourself and what matters most.

Start your Day with Five Minutes of Journalling  
So often we travel very far in our head. Thoughts run rampant affecting how we prioritize and make decisions.  Set the phone timer for five minutes and write about your intention for the day. This is your time. Ask and answer “What am I hoping for today”. Write whatever is meant to come out.  No one else will read what you’ve written.  No judgement allowed. There are no right or wrong answers.  Everyone can find five minutes in the morning (or in the evening- what did I enjoy about my day?  What am I hoping for tomorrow?)
Choose Three at Most Six
Assuming you have a Master List or a create daily list of tasks, pick three and six, at most, to complete for the day.  Decide what comes first and only progress to the next task once the one ahead of it is finished. The trick here is to pick very wisely.  If one “To Do”  is large, break it in to smaller activities.
You’ve Got Values
You already know what’s most important.  It’s just that life’s demands including distractions from technology and local and world events usurp our attention. Thankfully wiith a little reflection you can re-focus attention on your values. To help identify “what’s core”, talk with others or spend some alone-time on two suggestions from the Search Inside Yourself curriculum* :
  • Pick three people you admire and write about the characteristics that emote your admiration.  How might you embody these traits?
  • What are your top values and how do they “show up” in your life?
As we shift our rhythm to the pleasures of Autumn, let’s focus on what matters most.  Perhaps it’s more dinners with family and friends or long walks supporting our health or volunteering and feeling the benefits of giving to a community. By setting a daily intention, we’ll better prioritize how work, travel and life unfold, aligned with our values.  Actually the race will already have been won!
*Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute offers workshops to increase emotional intelligence, combining ancient mindfulness practices with current neuroscience. This value identification exercise is part of the two day curriculum.

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