February has been so busy we just had to have another day! (Happy Leap Day!)
At one point during this barrel race of a month I remarked to a coworker that I felt like I was back in high school doing last-minute run-throughs for one-act play contest.
Lately my days have been a flurry of revisions, rapid-fire questions, and quick decision-making as my work team prepares to launch multiple training programs, and in the evenings I’m working with my taekwondo coaches and fellow board breaking competitors to prepare for tournaments (plus I completed a new assignment from my publisher, just launched an author Facebook page, went to the ballet, and had a consultation with my tattoo artist during the shortest month of the year.)
I seem to thrive when I’m busy, and I also tend to let myself be pulled into the fray too much at times. I know I’ve been clenching my jaw during the day (my dentists won’t be happy about that), and I swear I’ve noticed a few more grey hairs (my hairdresser might notice that). I still worry about things that don’t really matter and fret about outcomes that eventually work out for themselves. I’m not to the zero f*cks place yet, but I’m working on it.
So what do you do when you have looming deadlines, multiple obligations, and a bustling personal life?
Be agile, be ready, and when you need to…be still.
Overall, I’m not a huge fan of change, which is ironic since my #1 focus at work this year is change management. That being said, I’ve learned over the years that you have to be agile in your environment, whether it’s the workplace, your home, or in a sparring match. Things can change in an instant, and your ability to adapt quickly is a big predictor of how you will be successful in the future. Be mindful of what you are learning in the moment and keep building on what has gotten you through each change.
Things change. New opportunities arise. Disappointments happen. Surprises happen. You can’t predict (or control) everything that is going to happen, but you can be ready. Part of that is accepting that truth–things change, and doors open. As a martial artist you don’t know when or if you will ever need to defend yourself off the mat, but your hours, months, and years of practice have honed your skills and instincts. Same thing with life–plan and prepare when you can, and be comfortable with Plans B, C, D…or no plan if that’s how you like to roll. (That is not my preference.)
This is the simplest concept for me to grasp, but it’s the hardest to put into practice. And it’s probably the most important one to keep in your toolbox. Practicing stillness calms and quiets your mind. It helps you filter out the BS you don’t need to worry about and be proactive about the things that do need your attention. When a change occurs or crunch time is going crazy, keep the big picture in mind. Pause before you react.
I’ve been using the Headspace app regularly for the last two months (after using it less frequently for years), and the short meditations I do in the morning are beginning to make a small and welcome difference in my mindset.
Today I tried twice to go to taekwondo classes and was forced back home by road closures and terrible traffic thanks to an event that descends on my neighborhood this time every year. It forced me to go home and be still. I could have busied myself with housework, binge watched Netflix, or played on my phone, but I took the opportunity to sit at my desk and focus on my writing, which I don’t do as often as I should. I finished that assignment for my publisher, and finally, after weeks of putting it off, transferred and organized notes I’ve been keeping in my phone into my computer for the seeds of stories and novels. Turns out I have five potential books in the works!
I have a feeling 2020 is going to keep up this fast pace for a while, and if your year is like mine, I think we can get through it if we’re agile and ready to roll with changes and take new chances.
And the moments of stillness can help us rise above the chaos and stay focused on what is most important and meaningful to us.
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Stay tuned for my upcoming book – “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!